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ABB launches world-first subsea power technology system

January 24, 2020 | By Kavita Sabharwal-Chomiuk

Photo: ABB

ABB’s world-first subsea power distribution and conversion technology system has been proven viable for cleaner and more sustainable offshore oil and gas production, following the completion of a 3,000-hour shallow water test.

For the first time, energy companies will be able to access a reliable supply of up to 100 MW of power over distances up to 600 km and down to 3,000 m water depth, due to ABB’s single cable, which requires little or no maintenance for up to 30 years, making oil and gas production feasible in far out and deep ocean environments.

The $100 million research, design and development Joint Industry Project (JIP) between ABB and Equinor with partners Total and Chevron launched in 2013. The validation of the shallow water test at a sheltered harbor in Vaasa, Finland, means the possibility exists for the majority of the world’s offshore hydrocarbon resources for electrification.

“This milestone … is the result of intensive collaboration by over 200 scientists and engineers from ABB, Equinor, Total and Chevron in a multi-year, joint effort,” said Dr. Peter Terwiesch, president of ABB’s industrial automation business.


By powering pumps and compressors on the seabed, closer to the reservoir, ABB’s subsea power distribution and conversion technology can significantly cut power consumption. The company has identified potential for substantial energy savings, with reduced carbon emissions using power from shore.

ABB’s subsea power technology can connect to any power source, allowing future integrations with renewable energy, such as wind and hydro.

Image: ABB

Based on a specific field development case, the new technology could offer CAPEX savings of over $500 million, if eight consumers, such as pumps or compressors, are linked through a single cable over a distance of 200 km from other infrastructure. Having fewer people offshore will reduce risks and improve overall safety, according to ABB.

“Moving the entire oil and gas production facility to the seabed is no longer a dream. Remotely operated, increasingly autonomous, subsea facilities powered by lower carbon energy are more likely to become a reality as we transition towards a new energy future,” added Dr. Terwiesch.

Previously, only the transmission cable and subsea step-down transformer had been proven to work underwater. ABB’s version includes a step-down transformer, medium voltage variable speed drives and switchgear, control and low voltage power distribution, and power electronics and control systems. ABB’s own distributed control system, ABB Ability™ System 800xA, controlled the testing.

ABB has released a whitepaper on its subsea power system; read it here.

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