Last Updated on 04th September 2023
In the offshore oil and gas industry, FPSO means a Floating, Production, Storage, and Offloading vessel. An FPSO is equipped with processing equipment that helps separate, store, and offload crude oil and gas extracted from subsea oil wells or platforms.
An FPSO is the most commonly used floating system for offshore projects. As a floating facility, an FPSO optimizes offshore installation’s benefits and subsea wells’ potential.
FPSOs are designed for reliable and safe performance, with strict adherence to industry compliance and environmental standards.
Do you want to learn more about an FPSO? Read on.
FPSO (Floating, Production, Storage, and Offloading) is a floating vessel—an offshore production facility that contains processing equipment and storage for produced hydrocarbons. After processing oil and gas, an FPSO stores them safely before offloading onto an oil tanker or transporting through pipelines.
Typically, an FPSO looks like a ship-shaped vessel, with processing equipment above the vessel’s deck and hydrocarbon storage below the vessel’s deck (in the double hull).
While a new-build FPSO is designed and constructed from scratch, a converted FPSO is made by modifying an existing vessel, such as a crude oil shuttle tanker.
A shuttle tanker is a ship that transports oil from offshore oil fields to onshore refineries. An offloading FPSO vessel makes it convenient to transfer crude oil to shuttle tankers for shipping to refineries instead of transporting oil via a pipeline to shore.
In recent years, FPSO conversion has involved building large FPSOs by converting very large crude carriers (VLCCs).
The FPSO concept dates back to 1977 when Shell (the oil and gas major) built the world’s first FPSO platform “Shell Castellon” in Spain by converting an oil tanker.
Before the advent of FPSOs, companies could only extract oil and gas from shallow fields and transport via a subsea pipeline.
It was a challenging and an economically unviable extraction method used in oil and gas fields far away from shore.
However, FPSO deployments over the years have led to an increase in offshore oil gas production because of the cost-effective FPSO units, which are transferable and reusable at offshore sites.
FPSOs are widely used by oil and gas companies, which often lease FPSOs for the processing and storage of oil and gas.
Around 270+ FPSOs are successfully operating worldwide. Contrary to traditional offshore oil and gas platforms, FPSOs are considered to be cost effective, flexible, efficient, and safe.
What are the top countries using FPSOs? The list includes Brazil, the UK, Malaysia, Angola, Nigeria, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Guyana, Côte d'Ivoire, and Ghana.
An FPSO receives fluids (crude oil, water, etc.) from a subsea reservoir through risers that separate these fluids in the topside production facilities.
Furthermore, an FPSO stores oil or gas before offloading to a shuttle tanker or conveying processed petroleum through flexible pipelines.
An offloading FPSO vessel is equipped with an offloading system to transfer crude oil to shuttle tankers for shipment to refineries.
The major components of an FPSO unit are:
The FPSO hull refers to the topside (above sea level). The hull is newly built or made by converting an existing tanker in accordance with project specifications.
Most FPSO hulls are supplied or built within the Asia Pacific region.
The mooring system comprises anchors, connectors, and mooring lines. The mooring system holds the FPSO in place against waves and winds and supports a safe FPSO operation.
The choice of an FPSO mooring system depends on the predominant environmental conditions and water depth.
The turret mooring system (TMS) consists of a fixed turret column held by an external or internal structure through a bearing arrangement.
This system enables the vessel-bound components to weathervane freely around the fixed turret via several anchor lines connected to the seabed.
Contrary to a central mooring system that allows an FPSO to rotate freely, a spread mooring system fixes the FPSO from different locations.
However, disconnectable mooring systems are also used in environments prone to hurricanes or storms.
Risers are cylindrical conduits that primarily transfer fluids and gases from the subsea wellhead to the production platform or vessel.
Based on their processing and storage capabilities, FPSOs are classified into four common types:
In a related context of oilfield services, the floating, production, and offloading (FPO) business specializes in EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction), commissioning, and the operations of floating oil and gas facilities as per client requirements.
An FSO is an FPSO without oil or gas processing capability. Most FSOs are converted single hull supertankers.
Furthermore, a liquefied natural gas FPSO (LNG FPSO) provides a sustainable way to develop nearshore and offshore gas reserves.
From serving as a floating storage vessel to an offloading unit, an FPSO serves multiple uses and is a great asset for oil companies, including oil producers.
Adaptability and long service life
Adaptability to diverse environmental conditions and water depths, and sustainability in long-term (20 years or longer) operating conditions make FPSOs a preferred choice for many offshore oil- and gas-producing regions worldwide.
Freedom and flexibility
Oil and gas companies enjoy more freedom with FPSOs with respect to exploration and extraction.
As permanent structures and pipelines are not mandatory, an FPSO system also offers wide flexibility in operation and pipeline connectivity.
Better safety and storage
FPSO systems provide better safety and storage capacity than conventional processes and systems.
Moreover, FPSOs maximize cost efficiencies during construction.
FPSOs enable companies to produce oil and gas cost effectively than traditional offshore oil and gas production and storage.
FPSOs ensure competitive balance between smaller producers and larger producers.
Suitable for smaller oil fields
The elimination of long-distance, expensive pipelines makes FPSOs particularly suitable for smaller oil fields.
Furthermore, FPSOs provide huge time savings and are highly effective in deep water and remote locations that are not ideal for seabed pipelines.
Long construction and conversion time
FPSOs take around 1-2 years to build or convert and require a costly and timely environmental study for a specific field once accepted.
Lightering refers to “at-sea transfer” or “ship-to-ship transfer” of petroleum cargo from a large tanker to smaller ships or vessels.
Sometimes, the transfer of crude oil from an FPSO to a shuttle tanker may pose oil spill risks and have disastrous consequences for the marine environment and local inhabitants.
Compared to pipeline transport, FPSO vessel operations in deep water carry the highest crude oil spill risks from the transport function.
FPSO operators take utmost precautions to prevent oil spills. For example, FPSOs operating in the North Sea must abide by tough environmental regulations.
An FPSO project contributes to maintaining stable oil and natural gas supplies, as well as solving potential shortages, with significant crude oil and gas production capacities.
FPSO projects have demonstrated a strong comeback primarily due to the launch of new explorations stemming from depleting onshore oil and gas reserves, higher oil prices, creative financing options, and industry partnerships.
Furthermore, fabrication and integration innovations at global shipyards and market dynamics are increasing the momentum of newly sanctioned projects.
The rising energy demand is also leading to a surge in new FPSO projects in the Middle East, Latin America, South America, the United Kingdom, and West Africa, among other regions.
Key global FPSO contract awards for 2019-2022 include:
Let’s look at some well-known existing and upcoming FPSOs across the world:
FPSO Cidade de São Paulo MV23
The FPSO Cidade de São Paulo MV23 is stationed at the Sapinhoá field (formerly known as “Guara”), BM-S-9 Block in the “pre-salt” region of the Santos Basin (offshore Brazil).
The acquisition of FPSO Atlanta (formerly known as “OSX-2”) by the Brazilian oil company Enauta highlights a significant asset to be operated under ABS (American Bureau of Shipping) Class, with an estimated production capacity of 50,000 barrels of oil per day (BOPD) by 2024.
The United States-based ABS is a leading ship classification organization, which serves as a safety and risk management advisor to several industrial and government clients.
FPSO SEPETIBA is an offshore support vessel built in 2021 and deployed at the Mero field in the Santos Basin offshore Brazil.
FPSO SEPETIBA (formerly known as “Mero 2”) has a processing capacity of up to 180,000 BOPD and a minimum storage capacity of 1.4 million barrels of crude oil, among other features.
ExxonMobil’s Yellowtail project in the huge Stabroek Block offshore Guyana will feature ONE GUYANA—SBM Offshore’s advanced FPSO, which is expected to begin production in 2025.
The FPSO includes standardized topside modules with an estimated optimum oil production capacity of 250,000 barrels per day (BPD). In addition, the vessel will have sizeable storage and gas treatment capacities along with a water injection capacity of 300,000 BPD.
South Korea-based Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd. (DSME) is working on a proposed FPSO that will leverage offshore wind power to produce hydrogen.
The floating hydrogen production offshore plant (Hydrogen FPSO) is considered an optimal solution to achieve energy independence and safely produce green hydrogen.
The leading FPSO owners include:
You can check out the latest Top 20 FPSO Companies here.
The leading FPSO operators include:
Other key players operating in the global FPSO market are Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M) and Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. (HHI).
If you are looking for a detailed global FPSO market analysis, check out Blackridge Research & Consulting’s Global Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) Market Report.
The report provides deep insights into the current global and regional market demand scenario and various factors affecting the FPSO market growth.
The regional market analysis covers the FPSO market across regions, including Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North America.
The major demand drivers of the FPSO market include:
The FPSO market segmentation and forecast are based on the following:
In addition, the report assesses the FPSO market size, competitive landscape, market opportunities and threats.
Would you like to explore new project opportunities in the oil and gas industry? Explore the Global Project Tracker for in-depth coverage of key upcoming/future projects in the oilfield services sector.
FPSO is an adaptable and agile offshore structure suitable for large-scale oil production, processing, and storage. As efficient floating production systems with added benefits, FPSOs are widely used in the offshore oil and gas industry.
Deep water offshore oil and gas operations are on an upswing, with the focus shifting toward the highly flexible and versatile FPSOs.
An FPSO is a better choice when it comes to exploring remote offshore areas and extracting at a much lower cost than a conventional onshore oil field.
The growing popularity of FPSOs is further attributed to their transferability and reusability in the offshore oil and gas industry.
Delivering the same functionality as stationary oil and gas platforms, FPSOs are also viable in deeper and rougher waters.
The increasing number of deep water and ultra-deep water drilling projects and high potential for offshore marginal fields look promising for FPSO development and deployment in the future.
An FPSO is a truly efficient, economical vessel to make the most of global offshore oil fields.