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GE opens Brazil research centre to develop advanced subsea technology

13th November 2014

General Electric has opened its USD 500m Brazil Technology Center that will focus on developing advanced subsea oil and gas technology

GE opens Brazil research centre to develop advanced subsea technology
Currently, offshore oil and gas processing happens on platforms on the surface of the sea, these are often located miles from a wellhead not to mention the fact that these wellheads are at the bottom of the ocean

The centre, GE’s first in Latin America, will be a hub for engagement and collaboration with GE’s customers in the region and is expected to employ 400 researchers in the future.

“Our new research centre in Brazil will allow GE to innovate locally for our customers in Latin America and then export those innovations to the world,” said GE chairman and CEO, Jeff Immelt.

“Over the past decade, we have doubled down on our research and development investment and expanded our global network of Research Centers to address customer’s growing needs for breakthrough technology that we develop with them. We see significant growth opportunities in Latin America and having the best technology and solutions will ensure we maintain GE’s competitive edge."

In the twentieth century, one of mankind’s greatest feats was successfully landing on the moon more than 235,000 miles from earth. In the 21st century, mankind’s greatest feat may well be securing the world’s energy future for the next few centuries. 

Subsea engineers often say that it is actually more difficult to put a machine 10,000 feet under the sea than send a rocket to the moon. Developing extreme machines to survive the extreme pressures and highly corrosive subsea environment is a challenge that teams across GE’s Global Research network have been working on for more than a decade.

Currently, offshore oil and gas processing happens on platforms on the surface of the sea, these are often located miles from a wellhead not to mention the fact that these wellheads are at the bottom of the ocean. However, by placing power and processing equipment next to the wellhead on the sea floor, it makes the job of extracting the oil and pumping it to the surface easier, safer and ensures a successful and economical flow of oil or gas from a reservoir to the point of sale. It is also environmentally sound and more cost efficient for the extraction company.

Through the Brazil Technology Center, GE is engaged with several of our Oil & Gas customer partners to develop all the pieces that will make this subsea oil and gas processing facility a reality. Today, GE announced the first of these efforts, unveiling plans to work with customers Petrobras and BG Group in the future.


The future of Oil and Gas on the Seabed

Today, the processing of offshore oil and gas happens at the surface on a platform often located miles from a wellhead. This limits how much oil and gas can be recovered and makes what can be recovered more costly to process. Advanced subsea processing takes the floating platforms that would usually float on the surface of the sea and bolts them to seabed. Plus, new wellhead technologies that use subsea pumps and compressors will increase recovery and offer more economical oil field development with lower emissions. This reduces the capital and operating costs of running a drilling platform and greatly reduces the risks of having a manned platform out at sea. This is the latest in a long line of innovations that prove sometimes machines are better suited to working in dirty, dangerous or even dull environments.

Some of the biggest commercial opportunities in the oil industry today are in offshore exploration and production and particularly in the so called “pre-salt” layers that dominate the deep water off the coast of Brazil. The pre-salt is a layer of sedimentary rocks formed by the separation of the current American and African continents. It comprises large accumulations of excellent quality, high commercial value light oil.

GE is working with Petrobras and BG Group on research projects to develop the technologies and equipment that will be required to move production from the platform to the seabed.


Offshore Drilling with BG Group

Offshore drilling increases in complexity and cost as exploration and production activity goes deeper. In Brazil’s thick pre-salt layer, extremely hard rock formations contain hydrocarbons at high pressures and temperatures. These conditions demand drilling equipment that is adaptable to changing conditions and as reliable as possible. BG Group and GE are exploring ways to make drilling systems smarter, increasing the amount of data they provide and helping operators utilize the data in real-time. By creating an instant view of system performance, and the tools to put the data to work, BG Group and GE are making deepwater offshore exploration more productive, more efficient, and most importantly, safer. 


Separation Solutions with Petrobras

Researchers at the Brazil Technology Solutions Center and Petrobras are discussing more effective and efficient ways to separate oil, water and gas on the seabed. GE’s separation solutions offer various configurations, such as gas/liquid, oil/water (liquid/liquid) and three-phase (oil, water, gas). The separation systems are all designed for supporting increased oil and gas production. Benefits are space saving topside and energy saving due to less need for moving fluids from seabed to topside. Eliminating the water subsea frees up capacity for producing oil in the pipeline and topside facility.


GE’s Investment in a Global Innovation Network

Over the past decade, GE has invested 5 per cent to 6 per cent of its industrial revenue in research and development. GE has expanded its network of research and development centres to support its growing global industrial base -- by next year, two-thirds of the company’s revenues will come from outside the US and 70 per cent of its overall revenues will come from its industrial businesses.

“Expanding opportunities for oil and gas production in ultra-deep waters requires the kind of industry and technology know-how for extreme environments that is a part of GE’s DNA,” said Mark Little, senior vice president and chief technology officer, GE Global Research.

“The Brazil Technology Center is a place where we can work closely with local customers and universities in the region and harness the full power of our global research network to drive innovation in ways no one else can.”


About the Brazil Technology Center

The centre is located on the Ilha do Bom Jesus peninsula in Rio de Janeiro. GE has been in Brazil since 1919 and, today, employs more than 8,800 people in the country. The GE Brazil Technology Center is one of nine research centers globally and one of five outside the U.S. The company has operations throughout the country, including São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro. The new research and development centre in Rio is approximately 250,000 square feet, of which half is devoted to lab space.

The centre will also be home to a Global Learning facility, where GE employees will join senior leaders from industry, academia and government to learn and share best practices. The Rio branch of “Crotonville,” GE’s global leadership development institute in the US, will focus on leadership strategy, business management, and finance training as part of GE’s USD 1bn annual investment in employee growth worldwide.

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