In 1961, Shell installed the first subsea production tree in the Gulf of Mexico. By 1997, 1,000 subsea completions were in place, and 15 years later, more than 4,800 Christmas trees had been installed on subsea wells worldwide. By 2014, subsea systems were operating in water depths approaching 10,000 feet. In the past half century—and particularly in the past two decades—subsea development has unlocked enormous opportunities for resource holders and oil companies and profitable growth for innovative service providers.
Although great technical and commercial progress has been made, the industry faces new challenges as it enters its sixth decade, including increased production losses, technical bottlenecks, and a lack of sustainable business models for certain subsea services. At the same time, other less glamorous yet persistent problems remain unsolved, such as reducing delivery lead times, improving recovery factors from subsea fields, achieving planning excellence, and making standardization tradeoffs. BCG has worked with some of the world’s leading subsea operators, equipment suppliers, and service contractors to identify these challenges and the best options for addressing them.