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OTC-25777-MS

Safaniya Electrification Using High Power Field Power Supply Challenges:


Design, Procurement and Shallow Water Installations
Riyadh Al-Rashed, Saudi Aramco

Copyright 2015, Offshore Technology Conference

This paper was prepared for presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston, Texas, USA, 4 –7 May 2015.

This paper was selected for presentation by an OTC program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents
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Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to share the knowledge and experience that Saudi Aramco went through
during the execution of the “Upgrade Crude Gathering and Power Supply Facilities, Phase I - Safaniya
Field” project. The paper focuses on the challenges associated with providing reliable power supply to the
Safaniya field via a high voltage power system that includes high voltage submarine cables and the
required topside substations and structural facilities.
The project will interface with SEC’s 380 kV gas insulated switchgears (GIS) at Ma’aden and Manifa
BSP substations. This project will expand Manifa 380 kV GIS to allow for the tie-in of the 380 kV
transmission lines to be installed at Safaniya under this project (Figures 1 and 2). Additionally, the project
will connect to Ma’aden 380 kV GIS. Additionally, the project will interface with existing 69 kV GIS
switchgear at TP-17 and TP-19. The project shall disconnect existing 69 kV cables and preserve them (for
emergency use) at both TPs and connect new 69 kV cables from TP-20.
With the aging of oil wells and the increase in water cut, Saudi Aramco decided to implement artificial
lift solutions by installing electric submersible pumps (ESPs) in Safaniya field wells. This solution
requires significant power upgrades as each ESP has is designed for 500 horse power (HP), leading the
over power requirement to reach 200 MW in the North Safaniya field alone. To support the artificial lift
approach, Saudi Aramco designed, procured, constructed and installed dedicated offshore power supply
facilities including the world’s longest subsea 230 kV three-core, cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) cable.
The implementation of the solution has gone through several challenges associated with the high
voltage submarine power cable design, supply and installation, and the topside tie-in platform sizing and
installation. This paper presents the challenges, the steps taken to overcome them and the unconventional
installation technique that was successfully implemented.

Introduction
Safaniya field is the world’s largest offshore oil field and started producing oil over 40 years ago. With
aging offshore wells and reservoirs, and the continuous rise in demand for heavy crude oil, there was a
need to implement an artificial lift solution by utilizing electric submersible pumps (ESPs) to produce the
required quantities of oil.
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Figure 1—Existing 230 kV Power Supply to Tanajib and Safaniya

Figure 2—Power Supply to Safaniya Onshore & Offshore Facilities

This ESP solution requires a significant power system upgrade to operate. In this project, 200 MW of
power was supposed to be supplied to North Safaniya (via a 230 kV composite power/fiber submarine
cable) to serve over 150 ESPs (each ESP was sized at 500 horse power [HP]).
This project includes installing a new tie-in platform (TP-20) and a new trunk line (TL-11) to transport
crude oil from north Safaniya to the Safaniya Onshore Plant. The project provides topsides electrical
equipment for nine platforms; new 380/230/115 kV substations (onshore); 380 kV overhead power lines;
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a 230 kV subsea cable from onshore to the new platform (TP-20) (north Safaniya); and a 115 kV subsea
cable from onshore to the existing platform (TP-18) (central Safaniya).
Saudi Aramco was faced with several challenges for satisfying the huge power supply requirements for
offshore operations. These challenges started at early stages of the project, including the conceptual phase,
and continued throughout the project life cycle until successful completion. Among these challenges were
the following:
● Long distance power transmission (high voltage AC vs. HVDC systems).
● Absence of Saudi Aramco standards, specifications and a list of manufacturers for 230 kV
submarine cables.
● Offshore facilities design and construction.
● Cable size challenges: Transportation, handling and shallow water installation.
● Environmental preservation challenges.
● Maintenance and operability.
The following sections of this paper give the details of these challenges and the solutions considered
and implemented to overcome each one of them to achieve a successful project delivery.
Design Objective
This project provided for crude gathering and power supply facilities for the Safaniya field. This project
installed a new tie-in platform (TP-20) and a new trunk line (TL-11) to transport crude oil from north
Safaniya to Safaniya onshore plant. This budget item will also provide topside electrical equipment for the
SFNY 646/655, SFNY 656/665, SFNY 910/919, SFNY 930/939 and SFNY 940/949 platforms. It will
provide new 380/230/115 kV substations (onshore); 380 kV overhead power lines; 230 kV subsea cable
from onshore to the new TP-20 (north Safaniya); 115 kV subsea cable from onshore to existing TP-18
(central Safaniya); and will modify the SFNY 243/248, SFNY 275/280, SFNY 348/353 and SFNY
470/475 platforms to support ESP operations.
Mezzanine Deck (Electrical Deck)
This deck will accommodate the following:
● One 230 kV switchgear
● One 69 kV switchgear
● One 13.8 kV switchgear
● Two three-winding (230 kV/69 kV/13.8 kV) electrical transformers
● One J-tube to connect the 230 kV cable
● Three J-tubes to connect each 69 kV cable
● 16 J-tubes to connect each 13.8 kV cable
Electrification of TP-20
● Install a 230 kV single circuit overhead transmission from the new SEC Safaniya 380 kV/230 kV
GIS substation to the shore area of the trunk line #10 landing area.
● Install a 230 kV composite submarine cable from the shore area of the trunk line #10 landing area
to the TP-20 platform.
● Install 230 kV indoor GIS on TP-20 comprising three circuit breakers and six 230 kV disconnects.
● Install two three-winding 230 kV/69 kV/13.8 kV 100/133 MVA transformers at TP-20.
● Install 69 kV indoor GIS on TP-20 comprising six circuit breakers (two incomers; one tie; and
three feeders) and the provision for future two 69 kV feeder breakers.
● Install one double ended 13.8 kV indoor air insulated switchgears comprising two buses, two
incomer breakers, one tie breaker and 10 outgoing feeder breakers.
● Install a substation building to house the 230/69/13.8 kV transformers.
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Long Distance Power Transmission (High Voltage AC vs. HVDC Systems)


From the early design stages of the project, Saudi Aramco was faced with the dilemma of whether to
supply the required power demand on high voltage AC or high voltage DC systems.
The 200 MW of power was required to be transmitted over 50 kilometers from the onshore power
source substation, built by the utility grid owner, to the offshore receiving substation on the tie-in platform
(TP). The company’s specialists were worried about the charging currents and the voltage drop/loss when
supplying alternating current (AC) power over the 50 kilometer distance.
To thoroughly analyze the situation, and the possible alternative, Saudi Aramco started multiple studies
and communications with industry specialists to compare the costs and the advantages/disadvantages of
each solution and implement the most effective one in the project. The main outcomes of the studies were
as follows:
● Electrical transient analysis and model simulation studies were conducted to simulate the different
losses and analyze the stability of the electrical network. The results of the analysis and simulation
showed that transmitting 200 MW of power over 50 kilometers of AC submarine power cable is
feasible. The study showed that the system reliability was on the edge. This meant that if the power
requirement went beyond the 200 MW or the distance increased to more than 50 kilometers, the
AC charging currents and voltage drop will be a concern. Luckily, this wasn’t the case for this
project.
● A thorough study and engagement with different industry specialists was also initiated to compare
the high voltage AC and HVDC power equipment. Saudi Aramco has been utilizing AC systems
for decades in (almost) a maintenance free environment.
The studies and analysis of the HVDC system showed that there is a need install converter stations
to covert the source power onshore from AC to DC, and then re-convert it back to AC for offshore
to supply the ESPs. The installation of these converter stations will be a major cost addition to the
project.
In addition to the high cost of the converter stations, there were other problems associated with them.
For instance, they required a dedicated and continuous cooling system (which can be a cost issue in a hot
environment like the one in Saudi Arabia). The other major issue was the maintenance requirement for
these converter stations. The converter stations will need to go on a planned outage for a certain number
of days each year for maintenance purposes. Consequently, this means lost production from a valuable
offshore field that needs to be replaced from another source.
Therefore, Saudi Aramco decided to proceed with the conventional AC power for this project. The
analysis and study provided a good insight into the HVDC power systems specifications. An HVDC
system solution can be the only solution for Saudi Aramco in the future when trying to develop longer
fields and/or higher power demands.

Specifications and a List of Manufacturers for 230 kV Submarine Cables


To proceed with the AC system, and based on the power requirements, Saudi Aramco determined that a
230 kV submarine power cable should be installed between the power source substation onshore to a
newly built tie-in platform offshore for a total length of 50 kilometers.
This was a record-breaking submarine cable for Saudi Aramco in terms of voltage levels and distance.
Market research also revealed that this will be longest of its kind in the world (3-core XLPE cable). The
only other 3-core XLPE cable that comes close in length is installed at Wolfe Island, Canada, which was
only 8 km long.
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Saudi Aramco realized that careful planning is only way to design, procure and install such a highly
valuable asset. The project team worked jointly with the company’s engineering specialists to select the
right manufacturers with the required experience to build such a cable.
One of the initial challenge was to finalize the specification for 230 kV submarine power cables. The
project team and the company’s specialist engineers launched a campaign to meet with the major
manufacturers around the world, visit the factories and define the best specifications that guarantees the
integrity of the cable.
The task force from the company visited the major manufacturers globally and several workshops were
conducted with the manufacturers to review their own standards as well as the international standards; like
the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards: IEC-60502, IEC-60287, IEC-60228,
IEC-60840 and IEC-62067
The team gained valuable insights about what to include and what not to include in the cable
specifications. The project team was also able to collect valuable information about the expected delivery
time; order of magnitude cost estimates; and the logistics associated with the cable transportation and
installation.
As a result, Saudi Aramco expanded its knowledge and the standard and specifications and created an
approved list of manufacturers that can manufacture and deliver the cable reliably. Among these
manufacturers were Nexans, ABB and Prysmian.

Offshore Facilities Design and Construction


As the end user and operator of the field and associated power system, Saudi Aramco went through a
contractual development phase to award the facilities engineering, procurement and construction (EPC)
contract.
The field development was designed by having a main tie-in platform (Safaniya TP-20) that was
receiving the main 230 kV incoming power cable and distributing the power to two other tie-in platforms
(Safaniya TP-17 and TP-19) via a dedicated 69 kV submarine cable to each TP. Each tie-in platform will
then supply the wellhead platforms with 13.8 kV submarine power cables.
The above configuration meant that the main tie-in platform (TP-20) should be designed to accom-
modate 230 kV, 69 kV and 13.8 kV power equipment (gas insulated switchgears, step down transformers,
metal clad switchgears, backup DC systems and the other associated control and communication systems).
In addition to the massive space requirement for power system equipment, TP-20 was also designed
to be the main crude gathering hub in the North Safaniya field. Although the team implemented several
measures to reduce the complexity and the weight of the platform (like the utilization of three-winding 230
kV/69 kV/15 kV for the power system on the platform), the layout of the platform led to a considerably
heavy weight reaching over 6,000 tons. This weight was beyond the single lift capabilities of the heavy
lift barges in the Arabian Gulf area (where most of the heavy lift barge capacity ranges were between
1,500 and 3,000 tons).
The project team evaluated several alternatives for the design and installation of TP-20. Among the
alternatives evaluated was splitting the platform into several modules and conducting multiple installa-
tions in offshore. This alternative was going to lead to extensive offshore hookup time and cost. After
careful cost and schedule analysis, the team elected to go with a float-over installation of the platform.
With the float-over option, the team was able to fully fabricate the platform and test its systems in the
fabrication yard before installing it as one piece in the field.
Although the float-over installation was not a new practice for the industry, it was being utilized for
the first time in Saudi Aramco. The relatively shallow water nature of the installation location (20 meters
water depth) added more complexity as the installation team had to carefully study the float-over barge
ballasting operations and ensure that the barge would not be in contact with the jacket. The team
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conducted a model study to simulate the float-over operation and define the most optimum weather
condition for the installation.

Figure 4 —TP-20 Float-over Installation

The final specifications were agreed to be a 50 kilometer composite of 3-core 230 kV XLPE power and
48 strands of fiber-optic cable.
New challenges became apparent as soon as the design of the cable started. The total weight of the
cable was estimated to be 5,000 tons. To guarantee the integrity of the cable, it had to be installed as one
piece for the entire 50 kilometers without introducing field splices.
To achieve this requirement, the cable had to be transported as one piece from the manufacturer’s
location , to the installation site in Safaniya, Saudi Arabia. Transporting such a huge cable on cable reels
would have been impractical.
The most practical solution was to get the cable lay vessel to go to manufacturer’ s location and pick
up the cable from the factory and come back with it to Safaniya for the installation.
This solution also provided another logistical challenge: There were only a few barges available in the
world that could carry and transport 5,000 tons of cable. The Main LSTK Contractor for the main facilities
, elected to use their own vessel to pick up and transport the cable to Saudi Arabia.
A careful consideration had to be put to the impact of using the vessel to transport the cable according
to the project schedule. Although the cable installation work alone might have taken only 2-3 weeks, the
project team had to allocate nearly three months for the activity as the Barge had to travel for one month
to pick up the cable and travel one month back to Saudi Arabia.
The cable route goes through a challenging 10 kilometers where the water depth is between 2-3 meters.
This shallow water route formed a challenge to the project team . The draft for the cable lay vessel was
around 8 meters. The question and dilemma was how to install these 10 kilometers of cable without
introducing a field splice?
There were several solutions that had to be considered. Among these solutions was floating the cable
on prefabricated floaters and utilizing preinstalled cable rollers to pull the cable. None of these solutions
were practical for a 10 kilometer length (which was longer than the previous world record of 8 kilometers
for a 230 kV 3-core XLPE).
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After several brainstorming and constructability sessions, a solution started to emerge. The solution
was to utilize a second shallow water cable lay barge that had a cable lay carousel and spool the required
length of cable from the North Ocean-102 to the shallow water barge without introducing a field splice.
A cable lay barge with a very low draft was not available in the market. Therefore, the project team
had to convert a flat-top cargo barge into a cable lay barge. A new cable carousel was manufactured in
Scotland and shipped to Contractor’s Yard in Dubai where it was fitted on top of the cargo barge .
In addition, a new cable tensioning system, monitoring system, cable chute and complete offices and
accommodation were fitted on the Barge converting it to a fully independent shallow water cable lay
barge.

Figure 5—Cable Lay Vessel

The installation plan was to set up both cable lay vessels at a point 15 kilometers away from the
shoreline, and transfer 15 km of cable from cable barge to cable lay barge. Then each barge would sail
in different directions; one laying toward onshore cable Lay barge and the other Barge sailing to the
offshore destination of Safaniya TP-20.

Figure 6 —Transpooling Cable between Two Barges


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There were other smaller, but significant, details that were also taken care of. For example, there had
to be enough slack in the cable (around 1 km) during transpooling it from Barge to cable lay vessel to
ensure the cable transpooling could be stopped if anything went wrong. Another issue was an extremely
shallow area where the water depth was less than 1 meter for about 500 meters. Therefore, the cable lay
barge had to be designed in a way that would allow it to be set on the seabed during low tide and sail
during high tide.

Environment Preservation Challenge


As the cable was to be installed in shallow waters, it needed to be protected against any possible damage
from ongoing marine traffic in the area. The specified means to protect the cable was by burying it 1 meter
deep in the seabed in the areas where the water depth was less than 7 meters (which was for most of the
10 km where Cable lay barge was installing the cable).
To bury the cable in the seabed, it was decided that a back-hoe dredger would be utilized ahead of the
Vessel to trench a narrow channel into which the cable lay barge would install the cable.
Prior to commencing any dredging or trenching work, and to ensure there would be no harm to the
regional marine environment, a detailed environmental impact assessment (EIA) study was performed.
The project team worked closely with Saudi Aramco’s Environment Protection Department (EPD) and the
Marine Department of the Research Institute at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals
(KFUPM) to develop the EIA study and establish a plan for any required environmental protection
measures.
The EIA study team conducted underwater dive surveys and thoroughly reviewed the area charts and
marine environment profile. The study showed that the trenched channel would pass near a coral area that
would be around 100 meters away from the cable.

Figure 7—Safaniya Corals

There was a concern that the sediments from the trenching operations would be carried out by the
current and damage the valuable coral heads. Although, the plan involved installing silt screens prior to
the commencement of dredging, Saudi Aramco wanted to be absolutely sure that there would be no harm
to the coral heads.
After careful analysis, the project team and the EIA study team decided to implement an alternative
solution (other than burying the cable) near the corals area. The 230 kV cable would be protected in that
particular area by installing cable protection around it prior to the installation. After that, a diving vessel
would be mobilized to install concrete mattresses on top of this section of the cable to provide additional
protection and stability.
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Figure 8 —Cable Protection

Although this alternative method was more expensive than the originally planned cable burial, it was
the most environmentally friendly solution and was the one agreed on by all parties.
Maintenance and Operability
The project team worked in a close relationship with all Saudi Aramco’s technical departments to develop
a tailored design that guaranteed the preservation and minimized the required maintenance for both the
high voltage power cable and the tie-in platform (TP-20). All required spare parts and material cataloging
were prepared along with the concerned subject matter experts to ensure availability of materials in case
of maintenance needs.
Conclusion
This paper highlights Saudi Aramco’s experience in performing a high voltage electrification program for
offshore facilities in very shallow waters. To satisfy the continuously growing demand for electrical power
in offshore fields, the company had to analyze and implement several alternative solutions.
Saudi Aramco thoroughly studied the feasibility of supplying the power utilizing high voltage DC
(HVDC) systems. Although in this particular project, the team continued with the supply of the
conventional AC power, studying HVDC provided valuable insight for future use. The application of
HVDC systems might be a necessity in the future when the use of conventional high voltage AC becomes
infeasible due to the extremely higher power requirement or the long distances from the power source or
the grid.
By adapting the AC solution, the project team had to also overcome several challenges associated with
the huge size of the cable introduced; the logistical and installation challenges of such cable; and the
fabrication and installation of a tie-in platform of almost 6,000 tons in weight. The environment in
Safaniya field, where the cable has been installed, is also challenging. The shallow waters of the area bring
access difficulties for conventional cable lay vessels, which were mitigated by converting a cargo barge
to a fully equipped shallow water cable lay barge, allowing the cable installation without introducing field
splices.
Finally, Saudi Aramco has gained great experience in designing and executing high voltage electrifi-
cation projects, which involves significant power supply over long distances, fabrication and installation
of the heaviest tie-in platform .

Acknowledgments
The authors would like to thank the KFUPM Research Institute for the EIA study, Saudi Aramco
Operations team, various contractors and vendors for their continuous support during all phases of this
project.