An FPSO or Floating Production Storage Offloading facility, is a vessel based platform used to both produce and store hydrocarbons at its offshore location.
FPSOs are normally used at locations where subsea pipelines back to shore prove uneconomical., due to either the remote location of the wells or their short life expectancy.
Anchored to the seabed, typically hydrocarbons would be brought onto the FPSO from multiple subsea wells spread across a vast area via flexible hoses, although FPSOs are also used to take on hydrocarbons from fixed platforms.
The flexible hoses are attached to the FPSOs turret, allowing the FPSO to turn 360 degrees in varying wind and tide.
Once onboard, hydrocarbons are processed, stored and offloaded to oil tankers via a further flexible hose, allowing the product to be taken to any sea port globally.
Originally, the majority of FPSOs were made by converting sea going oil tankers, with the first FPSO- the Shell Castellon, built by Shell in 1977 to operate in the Mediterranean.
Construction of FPSOs greatly accelerated over the coming decades as their advantages over conventional platforms were proven.
Oil companies quickly saw the need for expensive long distance pipelines to shore was negated- bringing field startup costs down, product could more easily be shipped globally- bringing in higher returns and at the end of field life, an FPSO could be moved to a new location to continue work- further bringing down costs.
An Overview Of An FPSO Facility
FPSO Today And The Future
Today, more than 200 FPSOs are in operation around the world. Technologies have improved and systems have become more reliable, meaning FPSOs are used even more remotely and in much harsher conditions than ever before.
As in the very beginning, Shell continue to lead the way in FPSOs, as their decades long knowledge of construction and operation of FPSOs have culminated in the constructions of the worlds first LNG FPSO or FLNG (Floating Liquified Natural Gas platform), The Prelude.
The 488 meter long 74 meter wide Prelude has been a US$10 billion investment for Shell. Displacing 600,000 tonnes, she has been designed to work in exactly the same way as traditional FPSOs, but produce liquified natural gas (LNG) and be able to do it in category 5 cyclones off the coast of Australia.
With remaining global reserves being in ever remote locations and the need for reducing both production costs and production waste, the global fleet of FPSOs is forecast to grow dramatically over the coming years.
An Overview Of Shell’s Prelude FLNG Platform