Deep offshore: technical responses to new challenges

Deep offshore hydrocarbons, once considered to be out of reach, now make up around 30% of the world’s yet-to-be-discovered conventional resources. Their exploitation, which takes place at greater and greater water depths, in increasingly difficult seas and within increasingly isolated reserves characterized by complex fluids, represents a major challenge for the future of energy. Thanks to its experience in deep offshore and to its continuous innovation policy, Total Exploration & Production, the leader in this field, rises to the intrinsic challenges of deep offshore hydrocarbon production every day.

Constructing an FPSO requires considerable expertise in managing large projects. Pazflor in Angola.
Constructing an FPSO requires considerable expertise in managing large projects. Pazflor in Angola.

The main challenges posed by the new deep offshore environment

Total anticipates future needs thanks to a long-term vision based on proven expertise in deep offshore. The Group’s teams, guided by a detailed list of the technological gaps to be overcome in order to address future challenges effectively, work on five priority goals.

Reducing the development and exploitation costs of deep offshore projects

The biggest savings will come from optimizing and reducing drilling times (which are the subject of new automation-based operating strategies), and from standardizing and industrializing subsea equipment and industrial synergies that are currently being developed.


D’ici peu, toutes les opérations de production et de traitement par grande profondeur d’eau seront installées au fond de la mer.

Very soon, all our deep offshore production and processing operations will be installed on the sea floor.

The implementation of new subsea solutions will also provide another cost-reduction lever, as with the world’s first subsea separation system that was implemented in the Pazflor field (Angola) in 2011, which lowered the overall cost of this immense deep offshore development by 7%. In the long term, the new entirely subsea architectural concept, DEPTH® (Deep Export Production Treatment Hub), will provide financially viable access to reserves that are too far from the shore or too small to justify floating production facilities. This fully integrated plant will carry out on the seabed all the processing operations necessary to deliver products that are ready to be refined and exported to shore through subsea tie-backs that stretch across several hundred kilometers.


To meet the considerable energy needs generated by the widespread use of subsea processing, the Group is working to develop innovative technology in subsea power transmission and distribution to achieve two main goals: increasing the distance over which alternating current can be carried and obtaining electrical equipment that can withstand the high hydrostatic pressure that exists at great depths.

Accessing deep offshore satellite reserves

Certain DEPTH® technological building blocks, available in the shorter term, will make it possible to substantially reduce the development costs for these “peripheral” reserves, which contain 50 to 200 million barrels.


The first SPRINGS® underwater seawater injection and processing unit will be capable of processing and injecting up to 60,000 barrels of water/day.

We foresee large savings in various areas, including water injection thanks to the SPRINGS® project, the first-ever subsea sulfate removal and treated seawater injection unit that has now been successfully tested by a deep-sea pilot. By removing a surface-based high-pressure water injection line, this solution will lower the development costs for satellite reserves that are more than 50 km away from an FPSO by over 20%. Our new subsea chemical storage and injection system serves the same purpose. It is one of the innovations designed to tackle the challenges faced by “all-electric” subsea production systems that do away with the need for umbilicals containing hydraulic and chemical lines. This local chemical storage and injection solution, which forms part of the conceptual designs of forthcoming satellite reserve developments, would lower costs by up to 35%.

Facilitating hydrocarbon transport


Total played a leading role in the development of the Ledaflow transient multiphase flow software.

LedaFlow®, a new multiphase flow simulator, is one of the technological levers that are needed to make a qualitative leap forward in order to master flow assurance within an environment characterized by ever greater water depths and ever longer subsea lines.


Thanks to a number of enhanced algorithms that make calculations more reliable and accurate, LedaFlow® offers a clear competitive advantage for simulating unstable flow regimes. Its continuously improved performance, made possible by sustained R&D, will make it an essential tool for optimizing the design and cost of production and transport lines.

Guaranteeing the integrity of assets with new subsea technology

Un AUV Total pour l’inspection des pipelines deep offshore d’ici 2017.

Operational as of 2017, the AUV will significantly reduce the costs of operations while performing them four times faster.

New subsea inspection, monitoring, maintenance and repair technology must be developed to find the most cost-effective way to protect the integrity of Total’s mature fields and the operability of their facilities over time. An AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) used to carry out visual and acoustic inspections on pipelines will be the first example of such technology; it will enter the industrial phase in 2017. Key to this AUV is its ability to ensure optimized, low-cost inspection campaigns. In the medium term, the aim is to obtain a multi-functional resident AUV that can spend several months on the seabed and carry out work on the facilities at any time.

Designing new risers for ultra-deep offshore

The emergence of new offshore exploration targets at depths of 3,000 meters or more requires us to push beyond the operating limits of existing technology and create groundbreaking technology for drilling, developing and producing at these depths. Today, risers constitute one of the most important links in the technological chain of ultra-deep offshore, for drilling as well as for production. Composite materials, which are lighter than steel, are needed to ensure that these pipes will be able to bear their own weight past a certain length. Total is working in partnership with several industrial firms on testing innovative solutions in hopes of providing a reliable solution and a diverse offer as quickly as possible.

Deep offshore: continuous innovations over the past 50 years

Recognized by the industry as a deep offshore pioneer, Total turned its attention to subsea technology at the end of the 1960s. Since then, this pioneering mind-set has never faltered, ensuring that the story of the Group’s conquest of the deep sea is replete with major industrial achievements and new industrial standards.


  • Girassol Angola
    Total began its deep offshore operations with the commissioning of the largest FPSO ever built. Girassol in Angola.
  • Dalia Angola
    Total possesses high-level expertise in FPSO design and managing on-board safety. Dalia in Angola.
  • Pour gagner en flexibilité opérationnelle, l’organisation des topsides évolue tout au long de la vie du champ. Akpo, au Nigeria 
    To improve operational flexibility, the topsides structure changes throughout the lifetime of the field. Akpo in Nigeria.
  • Constructing an FPSO requires considerable expertise in managing large projects. Pazflor in Angola.
    Constructing an FPSO requires considerable expertise in managing large projects. Pazflor in Angola.
  • CLOV Angola
    Building an FPSO takes approximately ten million work hours over two years. Clov in Angola.
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Total, a leading deep offshore operator

Deep offshore currently accounts for 40% of all Total Group production and represents almost 70% of its 2015-2018 exploration goals.


Global deep offshore production between 2000 and 2035.

Deep offshore, a booming strategic activity

Total’s E&P developments, concentrated in the Gulf of Guinea, make it West Africa’s biggest deep-offshore operator in terms of production. Nevertheless, the scope of the Group’s activities in this area has grown significantly thanks to new E&P licenses in Eastern and Southern Africa, Asia and South America.

Total’s deep offshore positions in 2015.

Prioritizing the management of specific deep offshore risks

Performance and profitability come second to the highest priority: managing all types of risk, with a focus on the risks specific to deep offshore operations.

  • Blowout prevention and management: following a blowout on a competitor’s exploration well in the Gulf of Mexico, Total and the rest of the industry invested in developing new technology and equipment (designed to capture leaks, contain wells, etc.) to resolve a major incident of this kind as quickly as possible. Customized containment solutions for its subsea production wells in the Gulf of Guinea were also developed in-house.
  • Actions to tackle marine pollution: the development of Spill Watch, an in-house operational process that monitors and forecasts the movement of oil slicks, has allowed the Group to make significant qualitative progress in terms of the reliability and accuracy of oil-slick drift forecasting.
  • Subsea monitoring: committed to an extensive program that develops new subsea leak detection technology, Total has also created an observatory for the real-time surveillance of subsea geological contingencies.