10-11 Mar 2021
Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre

Joining the dots: digitalisation helps streamline EPCI

Using wyes as an example, Nigel Lim from Genesis discusses how technology helps improve the engineering, procurement, construction and installation process.

Given the recent ructions in oil and gas markets, it’s perhaps not surprising that producers around the world are looking for ways to improve EPCI contracts and reduce costs. Says Nigel Lim, Senior Subsea and Pipelines Engineer for Genesis: “We’re in a challenging time. Clients are pushing engineering consultants such as ourselves to improve the way we execute engineering designs. The pressure is on.”

In the past, the phases of an EPCI contract – engineering, procurement, construction and installation – have generally been carried out sequentially.

“If you take the example of a long pipeline from subsea offshore to onshore, what you’ll find is a lot of companies will do all the design engineering and basically take it up to 100 per cent completion of the design – all the analyses, all the drawings,” says Lim. “Then the procurement starts, so they’ll go and purchase all the line pipe, and then they’ll go through the quotation and bidding process, then the manufacturing. Then they’ll go offshore and start the construction. It’s all very sequential: one finishes and the other one starts.”

But increased competition and narrowing profit margins are changing how EPCI contracts work. “What we’re finding now is that these phases are being done more and more in parallel,” he says. That’s why digitalisation and automation are becoming important.

“For example,” says Lim, “we might get feedback from the installation engineers that our subsea structure is a bit too heavy for laying off a particular vessel, and we need to reduce the weight. That leads to iterations for the design engineering side of things. Digitalisation allows us to respond to these changes quicker by automating low-value tasks.”

Streamlining wye design and engineering

Lim and his team at Genesis are currently focusing their attention on improving the engineering process for wyes, the subsea component that retains piggability from two branches into one main production branch.

“Across many projects, wyes are quite similar,” says Lim. “You get changes in wall thicknesses, maybe, which effects the length, and you might have some weight restrictions as well, but essentially they are very similar components and they’re all designed to achieve the same thing. That makes them very suitable for automation.”

Perhaps more importantly, wyes are long-lead items that can cause significant delays to EPCI contracts. “Typically, you’re looking at between six to 12 months depending on the wall thickness,” he says. “And the wye design also interfaces with multiple design teams such as spool, structures, installation and procurement, and uses them as inputs into that design. Wyes can easily become the bottleneck in the project.”

Being a complex 3D shape, wyes are designed with finite element analysis – that is, structural stress analysis with Abaqus CAE – and analysed for a range of loads during the lifecycle. Genesis says it has improved this process by interfacing Python, a powerful coding language, with the Abaqus API.

“What we’ve achieved is a streamlined process for designing wyes and other subsea piping components,” says Lim. “We’ve boiled down the modelling of these components to number inputs into a model, which produces the entire model for us, and that results in huge schedule savings. We were able to automate very large amount of load cases and load inputs into these wye models.”

Demonstrated value of digitalisation and automation

Lim cites three wye-design case studies executed by Genesis within the past two years at similar water depths.

The first case study, in the East Shetland Basin, involved a traditional wye design process with no digitalisation or automation. “We manually modelled the wye in the stress analysis program, input all our loads traditionally, and post-processed our results traditionally,” he says. “The design engineering process was low-risk but took a long time.”

In the subsequent two studies, in offshore Hordaland and the Central North Sea, the Genesis team employed digitalisation and automation. This made it faster and easier to adjust the parameters of the second and third wyes, giving clients the confidence to run other parts of the EPCI process, such as structure and piping design, simultaneously.

“Removing the wye design and fabrication from the critical path had significant time-saving benefits for our clients,” he says. “And, thanks to automation, the schedule risks remained low.”

Lim says digitalisation and automation can help unlock efficiencies in the EPCI process that will deliver significant financial benefits for producers. “We know that when we design a wye, or any forged component, we’re entering a lot of data, clicking around programs, and this is really not what engineers are supposed to do,” he says. “These are low-value tasks. We want to eliminate from that process.”


AOG Energy 2021 will run 10-11 March at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

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