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Deep offshore oil and gas, 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 oil and gas production every day.

Artur Nunes Da Silva

Deep Offshore

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 expertise and closely managing our technical costs. Our teams, guided by a detailed list of the technological gaps to be overcome in order to address future challenges effectively, have five priority goals.

Reducing the Development and Operating Costs of Deep Offshore Projects

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

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

Implementing new subsea solutions is also another cost-reduction driver. One example is the world’s first subsea separation system. Implemented in Angola's Pazflor field in 2011, it lowered the overall cost of this immense deep offshore development by 7%. In the long term, the new, entirely subsea Deep Export Production Treatment Hub (DEPTH®) architectural concept will provide financially viable access to reserves that are too far from the shore or too small to justify floating production facilities. The fully integrated plant on the seabed will do all the processing needed to deliver products ready to be refined and exported onshore through subsea tie-backs hundreds of kilometers long.

To meet the considerable energy needs generated by the widespread use of subsea processing, we are working to develop innovative technology in subsea power transmission and distribution to achieve three main goals: enhancing the energy efficiency of our developments, increasing the distance over which alternating current can be carried and designing 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 substantially reduce the development costs for these satellite reserves, which contain 50 million to 200 million barrels.

We foresee large savings in various areas, including water injection thanks to the Subsea Process and Injection Gear for Seawter (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 eliminating a surface-based high-pressure water injection line, the solution will deliver a more than 20% reduction in the development costs for satellite reserves that are more than 50 kilometers away from an FPSO.

Our new subsea chemical storage and injection system serves the same purpose. This innovation is designed to tackle the challenges faced by “all-electric” subsea production systems, which eliminate the need for umbilicals containing hydraulic and chemical lines. This local chemical storage and injection solution, which is part of the conceptual designs of upcoming satellite reserve developments, could lower costs by up to 35%.

Facilitating Hydrocarbon Transportation

LedaFlow®, a new multiphase flow simulator, is one of the technological drivers needed to make a qualitative leap forward in managing 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. Because of its continuously improved performance, made possible by sustained R&D, it will be an essential tool for optimizing the design and cost of production and flow lines.

The ongoing development of simulation tools, paired with detailed analysis of the kinetics of hydrate formation in our fluids, led to the New Design Against Hydrates (NADAH) method. NADAH is used to ease the design requirements for subsea production line insulation by enabling those lines to operate in the thermodynamic zone where hydrates form.

Guaranteeing the Integrity of Assets with New Subsea Technology

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

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 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) used to carry out visual and acoustic inspections on pipelines is the first example of such technology; it entered the industrial phase in 2017. Key to the 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 current technology to devise groundbreaking technology for drilling, developing and producing at these depths at an acceptable cost. Risers are one of the most important links in the ultra-deep offshore technology chain, 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 manufacturers to test innovative solutions in hope of providing a reliable solution and a diverse offering as quickly as possible.

Deep Offshore: Continuous innovations

Recognized by the industry as a deep offshore pioneer, Total turned our attention to subsea technology in the late 1960s. Since then, this pioneer spirit has never faltered, ensuring that the story of our conquest of the deep sea is replete with major industrial achievements and new industrial standards.

  • Total began its deep offshore operations with the commissioning of its first FPSO, Girassol, in Angola - Exploration & Production - Angola
    Total began its deep offshore operations with the commissioning of its first FPSO, 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.

Total’s Innovations

  • 1967: First subsea production well, drilled in a water depth of 40 meters and located 1,200 meters from a host platform (Anguille Marine in Gabon).
  • 1976: First subsea production system comprising three production wells within one template and first subsea robotics stage for wellhead maintenance (Grondin Nord-Est in Gabon).
  • 1983: North East Frigg, the first subsea gas development in the North Sea, comprising six subsea wells that were remotely controlled from the Frigg platform located 18 kilometers away (Norway).
  • 1987: East Frigg, the first subsea development in the world to be developed, maintained and operated without the need for divers; it also paved the way for deep offshore developments (Norway). 
  • 2001: Girassol, lying in 1,400 meters of water, is the biggest offshore development to date (Angola). Its breakthrough riser towers are one of the many innovations for which it won the 2003 OTC Award. 
  • 2002: Canyon Express, the deepest offshore development to date (2,250 meters), simultaneously develops three gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico (U.S.A.).
  • 2003: Total's first Tension Leg Platform (TLP) installed in 800 meters of water and comprises surface wellheads (Gulf of Mexico, U.S.A.).
  • 2007: A 20-kilometer tie-back installed at a water depth of 1,400 meters to connect Rosa to the Girassol FPSO, a technological first for a field of this size located at such a depth (Angola).
  • 2008: K5F, the world’s first subsea project with electric controls for wellheads. In 2016, the commissioning of a new all-electric subsea well is another world first (Netherlands).
  • 2008-2012: First global industrial polymer injection pilot for the purposes of Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) in the deep offshore Dalia field (Angola).
  • 2011: Pazflor, the world’s first development to use subsea production activation systems that combine gas/liquid separation and new-generation pumps over several fields; the development won the 2013 OTC Award (Angola).
  • 2012: Electrical Trace Heated Pipe-in-Pipe (ETH-PiP) pilot, an innovative technology that heats subsea pipes in the Islay field in the North Sea (U.K.).
  • 2014: SPRINGS® offshore demonstrator unit test at a depth of 500 meters, which demonstrated the excellent performance of this subsea seawater injection solution (Republic of the Congo).
  • 2015: Laggan-Tormore, the first subsea-to-shore development (West of Shetland) of two remote fields, which export gas to the shore through a 143-kilometer subsea tie-back (U.K.). The development won the 2016 IPTC Award.
  • 2016: The first subseasubsea high-boost multiphase pump (3.5 MW), on Moho Phase 1b, a development that complements the Alima brownfield (Republic of the Congo).

Total, a Leading Deep Offshore Operator

The deep offshore currently accounts for 44% of Total's production and represented almost 70% of its 2018-2021 exploration goals.

Global deep offshore production between 2000 and 2035.

Deep Offshore, a Booming Strategic Activity

Total’s Exploration & Production developments, concentrated in the Gulf of Guinea, make us West Africa’s biggest deep offshore operator in terms of production. And the scope of our activities in this sector has grown significantly thanks to new Exploration & Production licenses in East and Southern Africa, Asia and South America.

Map of deep offshore projects and positions - Exploration & Production - Total


Affiliate Total Exploration & Production Angola demonstrated both the full range of Total’s innovation capabilities to develop Block 17 and Block 32 and its state-of-the-art operational expertise. As a results, total production has averaged close to 600,000 barrels per day and operating costs are competitive at around USD 5 per barrel, thanks to supply chain synergies and, more broadly, operational synergies captured across this prolific block.

Blocks 17 & 32, State-of-the-Art Operational Expertise

  • 9,000 square kilometers
  • 27 discoveries
  • 6 FPSO units commissioned in 18 years (Girassol, Dalia, Pazflor, CLOV & Kaombo Norte and Sul)

Prioritizing the Management of Specific Deep Offshore Risks

Performance and profitability come second to our highest priority: managing all types of risk, with a focus on those 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 mitigate a major incident of this kind as quickly as possible. Customized containment solutions for our subsea production wells in the Gulf of Guinea were also developed in-house and a unit dedicated to spill response was created in the Deepwater & Subsea product line.
  • 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 us to make significant 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 set up an observatory for the real-time surveillance of subsea geological hazards.

Deep Offshore

Flow Assurance: a Sensitive Issue for Any Oil Project

Deep Offshore

Springs®, Cutting Edge Technology

Deep Offshore

K5F: the First All-Electric Subsea Well in the Oil Industry

Deep Offshore

Flow Assurance with Multiphase Pumps

Deep Offshore

Extended Well Test on Libra

Deep Offshore

An AUV to Optimise Pipeline Inspections