Monthly Archives: August 2012
By Dudley Althaus
MEXICO CITY — After more than a dozen attempts, Mexico’s national petroleum monopoly has struck significant oil very near the U.S. boundary in the ultra-deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, President Felipe Calderon said Wednesday.
“This is a great discovery,” Calderon said in announcing the find by Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, beneath more than 8,300 feet of water and miles of earth, the first successful well in a system that he said ultimately may hold as much as 10 billion barrels of oil.
“It will further strengthen our petroleum reserves and will permit Mexico to maintain and increase petroleum production in the medium and long term.”
Pemex has been scrambling in recent years to replace the sharp production declines in the Cantarell offshore field at the foot of the Gulf. Earlier deep water attempts have either produced dry wells or natural gas that’s uneconomical to exploit at current prices.
Pemex estimates that its Gulf reserves may hold as much as 27 billion barrels of petroleum.
The new discovery lies in the so-called Perdido belt of the Gulf, just 24 miles from the U.S. boundary and about 110 miles offshore of Mexico’s northeastern coast. Calderon said Wednesday the initial estimate of a deposit in the Perdido area on Mexico’s side of the Gulf was between 250 and 400 million barrels.
A partnership headed by Shell Oil, Chevron and British Petroleum has been producing about 100,000 barrels a day from three fields in U.S. territory about 30 miles north of the new Pemex discovery. The companies began producing from their Perdido wells in March 2010, after three years of exploration and development of the field.
“People thought Pemex would find oil in Perdido if they could just successfully drill a well,” said Houston analyst George Baker, who closely tracks Mexico’s energy industries. Now, Baker said, Pemex will have to find the means to actually bring to market the barrels of oil in the find.
“The whole science of how you produce from deep water has little to do with the science of discovering a well,” Baker said. “It’s much more difficult.”
The discovery is likely to fuel the impending debate over further opening Pemex and Mexico’s petroleum resources to private investment. Proponents have argued that Pemex needs private investment from companies to fully develop Mexico’s petroleum potential.
Not only is private investment needed to find deep water oil, but also to develop any petroleum finds and bring them to market, they say.
Getting at the deep water oil will indeed prove difficult for Pemex. But for now the find gives Calderon bragging rights for reversing what had been a rapid decline in Mexico’s petroleum reserves as Canterell plays out and other fields had struggled to keep up.
“We received a company that had not been able to successfully explore in deep waters,” Calderon said of Pemex at the start of his six year term. “Today we leave a company that is doing so with great success.”
“We knew it was indispensable to go after this wealth,” Calderon said.
Calderon and Pemex officials said the new find would not be in production for at least another five years.
Baker said available deep water pipeline technology may enable Pemex to export its oil through the Perdido production platform jointly owned by Shell or other multinationals.
But he suggested Pemex does not yet have the technical capability to make those connections. For now the well will have to be plugged, Baker said, a procedure whose risk the Deep Water Horizon disaster made all too clear.
Calderon said the new deep water find proves that “there is no frontier so distant or so deep that we can’t cross. There is no challenge, no matter how complicated, that we can’t overcome.”
- Pemex’s El Perdido oil deposits may hold 10 billion barrels (fuelfix.com)
- Mexico turns to Texas for relief during natural gas crisis (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Natural gas from Mexico beckons Texas companies (mysanantonio.com)
- Mexico May Finally Get a Modern Oil Industry (businessweek.com)
When working in the most extreme offshore environments, crews have to be able to rely on the absolute integrity and performance of their vessels. Ulstein Group has joined forces with GC Rieber Shipping to offer the market a new standard in operational security and performance – a ship that refuses to accept failure, thanks to the pioneering ‘operation+’ philosophy.
GC Rieber Shipping, the Norway-based harsh environment shipping specialist, has charged ULSTEIN with developing a high-capacity subsea vessel based on its SX121 design. This NOK 800 million ship, ordered in June 2012, alongside an option for a sister vessel, has been commissioned in response to strong market desire for offshore construction support vessels (CSVs) for deep and harsh environments.
Reliability in the extreme
Alongside state-of-the-art features, equipment and performance figures, the vessel will give GC Rieber Shipping maximum operational availability – a vital characteristic for both the company and those chartering the ship. Downtime will be minimised thanks to the ‘operation+’ feature, an evolution of GC Rieber Shipping’s own ‘fail-to-safe’ design approach.
‘Operation+’ allows the vessel to continue to operate even if it has experienced a significant failure. Bjørn Valberg, GC Rieber Shipping’s Technical Director, explains more:
“Fail-to-safe means that even if a ship encounters a failure it is rendered in a safe condition. Our objective with this ship is to take that philosophy a step further,” Valberg comments.
“In the case of this vessel a single failure – such as a failure of a generator set, a single thruster or even an entire switchboard section (operating two generators and two thrusters) – will not threaten the redundant continuation of operations, giving charterers real peace of mind.”
Valberg illustrates this with a real-life scenario involving subsea flex pipe laying – an operation the new vessel is optimised for – where, if a single failure was encountered, a ‘standard’ ship would be forced to terminate operations as redundancy would be jeopardised.
“And of course,” he states, “if you are in deep waters with a substantial length of product, such as flex pipe, hanging from the ship, abandoning that operation is, well… it’s quite obvious how difficult, time-consuming and expensive that is.
“This new vessel, thanks to ‘operation+’ is protected against that scenario – it could continue with its assignment. That’s a hugely important characteristic of that vessel, helping the charterer meet the demanding expectations of the market.”
Configured for success
ULSTEIN’s design and solutions team has been working to turn this concept into reality and deliver the Holy Grail of minimal operational downtime and maximum efficiency and reliability.
Geir Sivertstøl, principal engineer electrical systems at ULSTEIN, says the vessel, equipped with three main thrusters and three side thrusters (for stationkeeping during pipe laying), is fully optimised for carrying out assignments without interruption.
He notes: ”The switchboard system, propellers and diesel motors can be configured in groups of two, three or four. In case of an AUTR operation (i.e. the occurrence of a single major failure), the vessel will only lose one third of its installed power package and propulsion, and will be able to complete the operation with two thirds of its capacity.”
“This,” he stresses, “in combination with the highest standards for dynamic positioning, DYNPOS-AUTRO, will ensure that charterers can look forward to operational standards that are custom made to tackle the world’s harshest – and potentially most resource rich – environments.”
Equipped, flexible, compelling
GC Rieber Shipping’s version of the SX121 (yard number 300 at Ulstein Verft) has been equipped to meet the most diverse requirements, in the most demanding of conditions.
The 130-metre long, 25-metre wide vessel can accommodate a crew of 130 and cut through deep waters with a top speed of 14.5 knots, while meeting all the latest environmental standards. She is equipped with a powerful 250 ton AHC (active heave compensated) offshore crane, perfect for lifting and lowering heavy equipment to and from subsea environments.
A large cargo deck creates the optimal environment for a variety of operations, ensuring that the vessel is well placed to meet the hugely diverse demands of the offshore construction market. It also offers the ability to carry two ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) – one that will be launched from the starboard side and the other through a moon pool.
In addition, the ship has been designed with SURF (subsea umbilical riser and flowline) capabilities and is prepared for the installation of a below-deck basket/ carousel with a 2500 ton capacity, as well as a 250 ton VLS (vertical lay system) for deployment through the moon pool.
It is, as Valberg stresses, a compellingly comprehensive package: “One of the main reasons for choosing the SX121 design from ULSTEIN was its inherent flexibility, which allows several types of operations and enables us to operate in a wider range of market segments. The fact that we can utilise the 250 ton crane to the maximum of its capability both in offshore and subsea lifts on this vessel was another deciding factor.”
GC Rieber Shipping’s vessel is, according to Tore Ulstein, deputy CEO in Ulstein Group, the ‘perfect project’ for ULSTEIN to show its renowned design and shipbuilding pedigree. Tore Ulstein notes that the business is well accustomed to developing and producing vessels that have the capability to minimise operational downtime, maximising customers’ profits.
He commented: “Our organisation has broad expertise in developing advanced high-capacity offshore vessels together with customers, so this project suits us perfectly.”
The SX121 is scheduled for delivery in the first quarter of 2014, boosting GC Rieber Shipping’s fleet (which was fully booked at the conclusion of 2011) of 18 advanced special purpose vessels, 12 of which are owned by the company.
CEO in GC Rieber Shipping, Irene W. Basili, has imparted that the new addition to the company will “strengthen our position in the high-end subsea segment” and that she is looking forward to receiving “a top-class vessel from ULSTEIN” – a sentiment that potential charterers will no doubt agree with.
Sonardyne International Ltd. has been awarded a contract by Noble Corporation to supply a Wireless Acoustic Emergency BOP Control System for its new deepwater drillship. The Noble Globetrotter II is the fifth Noble new-build vessel, along with other existing rigs, to be equipped with Sonardyne’s safety critical acoustic technology, providing reliable through-water wireless communications, positioning and BOP control in an emergency situation.
The Noble Globetrotter II is of similar design to its sister vessel, the Noble Globetrotter I. The vessel is due to begin work in the Gulf of Mexico in the second half of 2013.
Noble Corporation is one of the largest offshore drilling contractors in the world and operates a worldwide fleet of 79 rigs and drillships. The Noble Globetrotter II is currently en route to the Netherlands for tower and drilling system installation and once complete, will be capable of drilling in water depths up to 10,000ft. The vessel is due to begin work in the Gulf of Mexico in the second half of 2013 on long-term contract to Shell.
In the event of loss of normal communications with a BOP stack, Sonardyne’s self-contained, high security acoustic command and control backup system is used to execute emergency shutdown and riser disconnect procedures. The digital wideband acoustic signal technology incorporated into the supplied system has been proven to offer reliable performance in a well blow-out scenario despite intense noise pollution from a ruptured wellhead that would have severely limited the performance of an analogue acoustic BOP system.
“We have previously installed Sonardyne BOP control systems on several other Noble rigs so we’re delighted to be able to continue providing them with the critical positioning and control solutions they need,” said Ted Kenny, Business Development Manager of Subsea Control Systems at Sonardyne. “As the only provider with acoustic systems that are field-proven in the immediate vicinity of a major subsea blowout, we have the technology and in-depth knowledge to support Noble as it continues with its deep water exploration activities. The redundancy of the equipment chosen for the Noble Globetrotter II means that they will be able to reliably communicate with the BOP from either the rig or remotely from a standby vessel if the need ever arises.”
- WWCS, DOF Subsea Conduct Subsea Services in US Gulf Of Mexico (mb50.wordpress.com)
Kongsberg Maritime will deliver a sophisticated new Information Management System (IMS) as part of a ‘Full Picture’ Integrated Automation System (IAS) delivery to the Pacific Drilling owned Samsung 12000 design dynamically-positioned drillship, Pacific Santa Ana.
The IMS, which will be shown on the Kongsberg Maritime stand at ONS is a new development, which uniquely, facilitates consolidation of all control system data into a single, role-based secure web-portal. In practice, the IMS enables enhanced information sharing and better insight into operations for offshore and shore-based teams. This will result in improved decision support and safety of operations in addition to better troubleshooting of systems on board, maintenance planning and a reduced need for service personnel aboard service vessels.
Based on a suite of integrated applications offering improved information management and sharing possibilities, the new Kongsberg Maritime IMS is a modular system with a highly scalable infrastructure, enabling it to be deployed to very specific operational requirements. The Pacific Santa Ana delivery features a datalogger covering all datasources on board the drilling rig and replication of data to an onshore fleet database.
All data can be accessed in a role based web portal for offshore and onshore users. The core application is the user-defined dashboard in the web portal, which allows users in different roles to customise their views according to their specific needs and job roles. Uses for this application range include domain-specific information views and management fleet KPI views.
The new Kongsberg maritime IMS will join the already installed Kongsberg Maritime K-Pos Dynamic Positioning, K-Chief 700 automation, K-Safe safety system and K-Thrust thruster control already installed. The Pacific Santa Ana commenced drilling operations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in Spring 2012 under a 5 year contract with a Chevron subsidiary. The IMS project started at the beginning of April 2012 with a Factory Acceptance Test at Kongsberg Maritime in June. The Customer Acceptance Test is at the end of August. The system is expected to be fully operational during September 2012.
Press Release, August 28, 2012
- Two Unique Developments from Kongsberg Up for Prestigious Prize (Norway) (worldmaritimenews.com)
- Arctic Dynamic Positioning R&D Project Gets $3.2 Million Go Ahead (gcaptain.com)
- UK: Kongsberg Underwater Cameras for SMD Trencher (worldmaritimenews.com)