ABB Automation has struck a deal with a global leader in the $1bn market for electric submersible pumps (ESPs) which could provide a substantial boost for sales of its medium voltage drives.
Under the deal, ABB will become the exclusive worldwide supplier of MV drives to Centrilift, the global market leader for ESPs which are used to extract oil and water from wells. At present, just 7% of the world`s 30,000 ESPs have variable speed drives fitted.
ABB and Centrilift say that using VSDs more widely could make the pumps more reliable and could boost their efficiency. Although Centrilift makes its own VSDs, these are principally for low voltage pumps rated below 750kW. The use of specially tailored versions of ABB`s ACS 1000 MV drives will allow control of pumps rated at 1.5MW or higher.
The MV drives will also fit in well with the trend to drill subsea wells up to 30km away from their operating platforms. This distance could increase to 100km in future and open up oilfields not considered economic at present. The higher voltages and improved waveforms of MV drives makes them more suitable for these long-distance operations.
Neither party will give precise predictions for the size of the business, but Jouko Karvinen, head of ABB`s drives business suggests that it could amount to "hundreds of drives" in the next few years. At present, ABB sells around 600-700 of its ACS 1000 MV drives each year.
The average life of a submersible pump is less than five years and some fail after a matter of weeks. "If we could extend the life of our equipment, the market would grow significantly," suggests Peter Clayton, Centrilift`s vice-president for marketing.
Sales of ABB`s DC drives modules in the UK are being channeled exclusively through Telford-based Independent Control Systems (ICS) under a recent deal. The agreement means that, for the first time, ABB`s DCS 400 and DCS 500 drives will be available off the shelf in the UK, avoiding the previous two-week delay for drives that had to be ordered from Germany.