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Research and development

Asset tecnology

 Saipem Group’s asset technology initiatives (i.e. relating to vessels, equipment, processes) are conducted with the aim of improving the sustainability of the Group’s activities in terms of competitiveness, operational reliability and lower environmental impact through technological innovation.

During 2010, a number of projects moved from the concept phase to the experimental phase

The Field Joint Coating systems, the technology for remote monitoring of buckling during pipe launch operations and a number of excavation technologies for certain critical operating scenarios in fact all entered the results validation phase.

The year also saw the completion of initial studies of sustainable construction technologies for use in particularly sensitive marine environments (e.g. delicate ecosystems/seabeds) with the aim of mitigating environmental impact and restoring affected areas.o di mitigare l’impatto ambientale e il ripristino delle aree interessate dalle operazioni.

Meanwhile, work continued on the detailed design of the main technical systems and subsystems for the launch and production facilities of the new pipelay vessel CastorOne.
In addition, work continued on the development of the high capacity systems for pipe abandonment and recovery operations and the launch of large pipes in ultra shallow waters, the systems for monitoring pipe conditions during laying operations, pipe loading equipment and studies for improving the responsiveness of the dynamic positioning systems in extreme sea conditions.

Finally, two important events were held to increase the dissemination of Saipem technological know-how and innovation: the ‘Offshore and Arctic Technology Development Workshop’ and the latest edition of the Trofeo dell’Innovazione (Innovation Trophy).

Offshore tecnology

The Group’s activities in the offshore technology area during 2010 focused on the development of innovative solutions for offshore oil and gas production in terms of field architecture, concepts and technologies. The main activities carried out during the year pertained to solutions for the offshore developments in frontier areas (e.g. deepwater, Arctic), and the monetisation of offshore natural gas reserves using offshore liquefaction technology. Studies on systems for the exploitation of renewable marine energy sources were also carried out.

In the subsea processing area, the effort was focused on a series of tests on new system and subsystems developed in previous years:

- the new, patented multipipe gas/liquid gravity separation system went successfully through a second extensive phase of technical performance testing in the frame of a JIP (Joint Industry Project) supported by a number of major oil companies. In this phase, the performances of the system were validated through tests conducted under real flow conditions (gas/oil mixture, under P&T conditions);
- the development of the liquid/liquid gravity spool separation system continued with the pre-design work and the preparation for a first performance testing phase. The validation of the concept should be carried out in 2011;
- 2010 activities in subsea processing works focused on subsea solutions for the treatment of produced water.

In the SURF (Subsea, Umbilicali, Riseri and Flowlines) area, progress was made on activities started in the previous year, including developments on new risers for ultra deep water applications (up to 3,000 m) or for intermediate water depths (between 300 and 500 m), on thermal insulation of subsea elements with complex geometries (FLET, ILT, Spools) and on active heating solutions and anticorrosion technologies.
The realisation of subsea field architecture studies for various operators showed the attractiveness of new Subsea Processing Design and innovative SURF technologies and helped identify major emerging needs in terms of new solutions (related to flowlines, risers, subsea treatment, subsea power transmission and control).
Activities for floating LNGi (FLNG) increased in 2010, in particular with regard to the development of:

- medium-scale generic LNG FPSO;
- a tandem offloading system employing floating cryogenic hoses.

Work on Arctic offshore developments continued in 2010 with participation in various development programs (including basin tests and development of specific softwares) with the aim of better assessing and predicting the operating behaviour of structures in Arctic conditions and with specific applied loads.
2010 activities in the offshore renewable energy area were mainly focused on the full scale (10 m diameter) prototype of the Sabella turbines, which could potentially be installed off the coast of Brittany in the coming years. The participation of the French government in funding the project was officially announced at the end of 2010.

Onshore technology

In support of Saipem’s core activities in designing and building modern, cost-effective and sustainable upstream, midstream and downstream onshore plants for its customers worldwide, Saipem pursued the development of select proprietary process technologies and related know-how, as well as the application of the most advanced third-party state-of-the-art technologies, focusing in 2010 on the following key areas.

Continuing incremental performance improvements to its SnamprogettiTM Urea fertiliser production technology, licensed to date to 120 units world-wide.

Following the successful design and in some cases the forthcoming start-up of the largest urea complexes in the world (Engro in Pakistan; Qafco V and VI in Qatar and Matix in India), based on single trains of 3,850 t/d, a design basis has been developed for a possible future ‘jumbo’ complex larger than 5,000 t/d, utilising the same well-proven sequence of technologies.
Current development activity continues to focus on optimizing piping, instrumentation and lay-out issues, as well as on special improved steels.

An updated mathematical model of the urea plant high pressure ection was developed jointly with Eni. Once finally validated, this model will be used for further process improvements.

In addition, the design of a pilot ammonia recovery unit is under execution as part of the Urea Zero Emissions project, which will be located in a commercial scale plant.

Within the context of the Enel/Eni pilot CCS (Carbon Capture and Storagei) program, Saipem is applying – among others – its pipeline design knowledge to the section related to the transportation of CO2 in dense phase. The design for Eni of a pilot pipeline loop, to be located in the Enel power station of Brindisi, was completed during the year. Once built, its operation will provide practical know-how for future CO2 pipelines.

An MTBE cracking unit based on proprietary technology to produce high purity isobutene has been successfully started-up in India, using a new catalyst.

Saipem is close to completing the construction of the first commercial unit of ENSOLVEX, a new proprietary technology for the remediation of soils and sediments contaminated by organic compounds, at the Eni R&M refinery in Gela, Italy. The pre-commissioning has been rescheduled to 2011, due to permit issues.

Saipem has completed the commissioning of the first semi-commercial plant to remove CO2 from refinery streams by biofixation, using microalgae selected by Eni R&M laboratories. The biomass produced as a result could be used in the future for the production of biofuels.

Saipem has filed an additional patent application for ‘Zero Emission Sulphur Handling and Transportation’, a new method of solidifying liquid sulphur in solid blocks, thus consolidating its proprietary position in sulphur management technology.

Saipem continues to provide engineering and project management support for the technology development and commercial implementation of certain Eni proprietary R&D programs, foremost of which for EST - Eni Slurry Technology, for which a first full size commercial unit is currently in construction at the Eni R&M refinery in Sannazzaro, Italy.unità commerciale è in fase di costruzione nella raffineria Eni R&M a Sannazzaro (Italia).