An innovative subsea wellhead, described by its inventors as having the potential to ‘revolutionise’ production of oil and gas from deep-sea reservoirs, will be tested by mid-2014.
Developed by oil equipment manufacturer Plexus in cooperation with major oil companies including Shell, Total and Eni, the wellhead – a tap controlling flow of oil from a well – could enable companies to extract oil and gas in extreme environments where temperatures hit 150 degrees Celsius and pressure exceeds that in the chamber of a firing pistol.
In the heart of the new device is a system Plexus developed more than 15 years ago, which hasn’t really taken off with the oil producers yet. However, as oil production is moving towards more extreme environments and high pressure, high temperature oil wells are becoming an everyday reality for big producers, the time might have come for the device to get acknowledged.
Since 2010, Plexus’ profits have grown seven fold as the company's surface wellheads, using its patented POS-GRIP system, have become widely used for exploration wells in the North Sea.
The POS-GRIP system presses the wellhead body from the outside onto the device that supports the pipe going into the ground using hydraulics.
Conventional wellheads instead work from the 'inside out' and use a more complex arrangement to set seals. Plexus says its system is safer, more reliable and cheaper over the long-term.
Plexus is funding the project alone and will keep all connected patents but the input from oil giants means the product can be tailored to suit their individual needs.