Innovation Awards finalists 2018: Seabox and Tomax

Seabox and Tomax have been selected finalists for the ONS 2018 Innovation Awards. Seabox is part of National Oilwell Varco’s Subsea Production System and has developed a highly innovative and complex subsea water treatment module. Tomax is nominated in the “small and medium enterprises” (SME) category for their technology “Afterburner” – the first ever rotary drilling tractor. More finalists will be announced soon.

Seabox introducing: SeaboxTM subsea water treatment module

The SeaboxTM subsea water treatment module is a commercialized product that takes a ground-breaking approach to water treatment and injection for increased oil recovery. The Seabox module utilizes the simple concept of electrolysis and gravitational settlement principals to disinfect, decompose organics and remove particles from the seawater at the seabed.

Raw seawater enters the module through a grid of electrodes, which generates sodium hypochlorite from seawater. These oxidants act as sterilizing agents to inactive bacteria in the water that could otherwise cause severe challenges related to souring and damage to the reservoir. The water passes through the electro chlorination cells on its way to the large settlement chamber that makes up the majority of the Seabox volume. Gravitational and friction forces ensure efficient particle settlement via a honeycomb structure, which has no moving parts, inside the chamber. The Seabox module’s large volume also provides a long residence time, enabling thorough exposure to oxidants on the present bacteria. Exiting the chamber, the water is subjected to a secondary electrochemical treatment stage. This stage uses a proprietary technology that generates hydroxyl radicals, which in literature are described as the strongest oxidizing agents known to man, to kill bacteria and decompose organics.

The Seabox module disrupts competitive technologies by achieving the complete treatment process on the seabed, as compared to traditional water treatment processes carried out topside on a platform or FPSO. Taking water treatment subsea is a new way of thinking designed to enhance the water treatment process significantly. Not only is water quality superior compared to traditional solutions, but the achieved water quality is delivered right at the injection point—eliminating the need to take up valuable space on a platform or FPSO. Decoupling water injection infrastructure from topside infrastructure gives operators the flexibility to implement water injection in an optimum solution, after sufficient experience and knowledge of the reservoir characteristics have been gained. This added flexibility is a significant cost saver for operators, which will decrease and defer CAPEX and increase the success rate of water injection strategies.

The Seabox subsea water treatment module is manufactured and tested under real-world conditions, achieving exceptional results over time. The Seabox is at technology readiness level (TRL) 6 according to the commonly accepted API 17N standard. The first commercial delivery of a Seabox module is due in July/August 2018 to a well- known operator on the Norwegian continental shelf, and the system is ready to be delivered to other clients around the world.

Water injection is by far the most-used secondary recovery method to improve oil recovery in the oil and gas industry. Various studies indicate that the global water injection rate is already three times the amount of oil being produced, and it is still expected to grow, so the market potential is obvious. Challenging oil prices and maintenance-intensive platforms drive development of new and sustainable technologies that can provide better margins to overall field development strategies. The Seabox module can be utilized on both brown- and greenfields, replacing existing infrastructure or as an add-on to improve existing water treatment processes, making marginal satellite fields and remote locations economically viable. The market for the Seabox system is tremendous with a global potential that can prove a paradigm shift in the E&P industry. The Seabox system can be integrated in fields ranging from shallow waters in Malaysia to remote locations in the North Sea and further on to deep waters in Brazil.

The Seabox module has the potential to completely change the mindset for traditional asset developments as water injection systems can be decoupled from the oil production topside facilities. The flexibility of a seabed system means that water injection can be deployed based on real reservoir dynamics rather than scenarios based on limited data from exploratory wells. The extraordinary high-quality water from the Seabox system also removes the need for costly biocide injection. By reducing the capital and operational expenditure necessary for operators, the Seabox system will make more marginal assets economically viable. Seabox technology has been developed with funding from the industry and the Norwegian Research Council over many years.

As the Seabox system is based on well-known principals such as gravitational settlement of particles and electrolysis, none of which require any chemicals. The residual oxidant concentration is controlled very effectively and can be tailored to seasonal variations. Not only is the energy required to operate the Seabox system very low, but the overall process of avoiding lifting water to a topside and then transporting high-energy water through potentially long pipelines will save significant amounts of energy compared to traditional solutions. Due to the thorough disinfection of the seawater, there is no need for hazardous biocides and other chemicals that could harm people and the environment. Placing technology at the seabed also removes the need for offshore personnel, as the process can be monitored remotely from land facilities instead.

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Tomax introducing: Afterburner

The Afterburner is the first ever rotary drilling tractor. A drilling tractor can extend the available acreage under a typical North Sea platform by a factor of three to four.

Tomax’s Afterburner is a solid-state, downhole fluid thruster, developed with support from several oil companies and the Norwegian government. Afterburner re-routes the mud circulation just before it hits the bottom and powers five solid state fluid ejectors or jet thrusters. The thrusters provide up to 70 kN of thrust using no moving parts or electronics. This level of force at the end of the string is added to the force from gravity, thus giving the drill bit a radical improvement in drilling reach with minimal added complexity to the drilling system. At the same time a second, equally vital benefit is created: The ejector intakes are oriented, so they will draw up all cuttings immediately as they come free from the bottom. This principle for borehole cleaning replaces the traditional, intrusive jets. Both surgeons and dentists will verify the advantage of this principle for cleaning: Minimal disturbance of the near-bore area is key to stability over time.

In short; the Afterburner invention moves drilling beyond the barrier of gravity, while bringing a new solution to borehole cleaning that goes a long way in solving borehole stability. Experience from the Norwegian Shelf has shown that both elements are equally important for economical, long distance drilling.

The Afterburner has been repeatedly tested in full scale. It has also been tested for erosion and pressure responses. The field results overlay well with Computer Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models. The performance for each specific well can therefore be accurately predicted. The first deep offshore drilling operation was in 2015. In addition to proving the tractor effect, this test also confirmed how cleaning by suction was better than the traditional jets.

Several major stakeholders have participated in the development; Demo 2000, Statoil, Skattefunn, Engie B.V and VNG Norge AS. Since concept testing, most of the activity on the Afterburner has been on the integration with modern Rotary Steerable Systems (RSS). This is instrumental in the “plug’n play” marketing strategy. Now in 2018 the tool is ready for running with the lead brands and the aim is to catch the oncoming wave of activity with increasing oil prices. The primary market is the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea, but the US shale play and the Middle East also need longer reach. The plug’n play integration mean restrictions on geomarkets are minimal.

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About ONS Innovation Awards

Through the Innovation Awards ONS recognize the crucial importance of cutting-edge products and solutions. The awards reflect our long-standing commitment to presenting and promoting innovative ideas to the international oil, gas and energy industry.

This year ONS received a total of 127 applications/nominations. 56 companies applied for the Innovation Award and 56 companies applied for the SME Innovation Award. The jury has nominated five finalists to compete in each category.


The ten finalists will present their technologies in the session “Meet the Innovation Awards finalists”, Monday 27 August at ONS Technical Sessions.

The Innovation Awards Ceremony is held at the Conference session “Leadership: Stimulate to innovate”, Tuesday 28 August. The Awards will be presented by Chair of Innovation Award, Norwegian Research Council.

The first ONS Innovation Award was presented in 1982. The winner was Norwegian Contractors for Condeep – a gravity-based structure for a platform built from reinforced concrete instead of steel. In 2004 the SME Innovation Award was established to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises were given the chance to highlight their new developments.

A total of 26 companies have been recognised by the ONS Innovation Award juries for their cutting-edge technologies and solutions.

See list of previous winners.