Steve Mansfield
Director of GOM Field Development Group
Subsea 7
View from the Top

Digitalization Spells Success for Field Development Experts

By Pedro Alcalá | Thu, 11/04/2021 - 10:55

Q: How has Subsea 7 adjusted to the new industry environment defined by the tumultuous events of recent years?

A: Subsea 7’s experience has been interesting when compared to that of other organizations. In the Americas, for instance, we were very fortunate, since we had a considerable backlog of work. We experienced no downsizing in this region. In fact, we were even trying to grow at one point; nevertheless, there was a hiring freeze and that slowed down our plans. The field development team that I lead is focused on engaging early with the client to analyze the technical and economic feasibility of field development plans and ideas. We work to find the best solutions for the obstacles that our clients are facing. During the pandemic, we were forced to shift people around to keep the work flowing and prioritize our executable workload over studies due to the hiring freeze. COVID-19 caused obvious problems in our day-to-day operations offshore. For instance, relatively simple tasks, such as mobilizing vessels from one region to another, became much more complicated. However, we were successful in overcoming these obstacles, as evidenced by the fact that 2020 turned out to be our best year for the Americas region. The work backlog has decreased throughout 2021 and we are hiring once again as we see opportunities going forward. 

Q: How would you describe your portfolio in Mexico?  

A: We recently finished a project for Fieldwood’s Ichalkil field. We worked on the laying of pipelines and some other work on and between the platforms. This was our first offshore reel lay project in Mexico and we did it throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, this was Mexico’s first reel lay pipeline installed on their side of the Gulf. While maintaining a relationship with PEMEX, we are watching the market and engaging with the IOCs as it appears they will be more active. We have worked with Fieldwood, soon to be Lukoil, along with Talos Energy, Murphy Oil, BHP and others. We were previously involved with BHP in some of the early concepts for the Trion development.

Q: How does your team focus on the Pre-FEED & FEED stages of these field development projects?

A: There has been a great deal of investment by Subsea 7 in various technologies for projects we are involved in. We have joined in an alliance with OneSubsea called the Subsea Integration Alliance, or SIA. I work very closely with my counterparts at OneSubsea, who together with a Schlumberger engineering group have developed a digital cloud-based tool called Subsea Planner. The SIA brought its resources to the development of the Subsea Planner platform and we have begun using this tool with our clients to enable remote collaboration among different parts of the team. The tool makes our Concept/Study work in the Pre-FEED phase significantly faster and more accurate than what others were capable of doing before. Previously, it would take up to six months to evaluate a particular prospect to move forward. We can, by using this tool, perform that same evaluation in six weeks. We are able to run more scenarios and try more concepts and options in a significantly shorter period of time. The process and system facilitates remote working and involvement of the entire team on a single platform. This includes not just the subsea engineers (SPS) and the pipeline engineers (SURF) but also flow assurance, reservoir and systems personnel, among others. 

This tool also allows us the ability to model reservoirs and anticipate how these reservoirs will drain throughout the entire productive life cycle of the field. While some operators started embracing this tool right away, others analyzed the many free demonstrations that we provided them and chose to develop their own tool. I suppose imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

This is the nature of the current digital transformation landscape. It is a bit like the Wild West and may eventually settle down through standardization. At the same time, standardization can be an elusive goal. I also sit on the API Subcommittee 17 covering Industry Standards for Subsea Equipment. The desire for standardization exists within the industry, however standardization means different things to different companies. For instance, large IOCs see things differently than smaller independent operators and even more so among the various manufacturers. Getting many parties to agree on what the terms for that standardization should be or could be can be difficult. Our industry will continue to work on this issue in the years to come.


Subsea 7 is a British provider of specialized offshore services to oil and gas operators, although it is eyeing a Net Zero 2050 target through its services to offshore wind energy and other similar categories of activity.

Pedro Alcalá Pedro Alcalá Senior Journalist & Industry Analyst