Aberdeen-based Helix Well Ops UK (Well Ops), a business unit of international offshore energy company Helix Energy Solutions Group (Helix ESG), is expanding its Europe and Africa well intervention fleet with an investment that will create 60 jobs.
A leading global provider of subsea well intervention, Well Ops will take control of the mono-hull well intervention vessel Skandi Constructor in spring 2013, after agreeing a three-year charter with DOF Subsea.
The move to strengthen Well Ops’ regional fleet, which currently includes the 132-metre (433ft) long Well Enhancer and the 114-metre (374ft) long MSV Seawell, will lead to the creation of approximately 50 jobs offshore and a further 10 onshore over the next nine months. At the moment the firm employs 70 staff in Aberdeen and a further 300 offshore.
Launched in 2009, Skandi Constructor is a 120-metre (393ft) long Ulstein SX121 DP3 mono-hull well intervention vessel that features the new X-bow design. The 8,500-tonne vessel accommodates up to 100 personnel and is capable of working in depths of up to 3,000 metres (9,842ft). It has a deck capacity of 1,470 square metres (15,822 sq ft) and features an 8m x 8m (27ft x 27ft) moon-pool, a 150-tonne crane, a multi-purpose tower with 140-tonne lift capability and two work class ROVs.
Well Ops will build and test, ready for use, a specially designed version of its 7⅜” subsea intervention lubricator (SIL) to enable subsea well interventions to be undertaken from Skandi Constructor. The SIL is a single trip well intervention system that provides well access, while managing containment when the well is ‘live’ and under pressure. The SIL is configured to undertake work through all types of subsea xmas trees. The vessel and SIL will allow Well Ops to provide its regional clients with a solution for deeper water wells and well interventions, which to date has been limited within the mono-hull vessel market.
Steve Nairn, Well Ops’ regional vice president of Europe and Africa, said: “Well Ops is extremely proud to announce the addition of a third vessel to our fleet and it underlines our commitment to providing well intervention services. Skandi Constructor strengthens our offering internationally and expands our well intervention service capability.”
The need for a third vessel in Well Ops’ fleet has been driven by demand from operators in the North Sea and in other oil and gas producing provinces. The firm recently secured contracts from a number of the North Sea’s major operators to provide light well intervention and associated subsea services from its existing vessels between 2013 and 2015.
Internationally, it has also received strong interest from operators, particularly in West Africa. This follows Well Enhancer’s deployment to the region earlier this year, where it completed what was believed to have been the region’s first well intervention project from a mono-hull vessel.
Mr Nairn added: “This is an exciting time for the company and the demand that we are witnessing is illustrative of the level of service and expertise that we can offer clients. As operators continually seek to make their operations more time and cost efficient, it is encouraging that more are turning to mono-hull vessels to conduct well intervention work.
“Our experience of providing an alternative to rig-based intervention systems has been built up over 25 years. MSV Seawell helped to pioneer light well intervention in the North Sea and we have built on this over recent years with Well Enhancer, which was the first mono-hull vessel capable of delivering coiled tubing intervention.”
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There are great things happening aboard the vessel “Havila Phoenix” nowadays. During the last two years there have been installations and tests of a whole new system likely to revolutionise the offshore light well intervention market.
The vessel, a Havyard 858 design, is designed and constructed by the ship technology group, Havyard Group AS, and owned by Havila Shipping, both located in Fosnavåg at the west coast of Norway. The offshore construction vessel was delivered from Havyard Ship Technology in Leirvik, Norway in 2009.
The vessel has over the last year-and-a-half been working on a contract for Fugro-Salt Subsea, part of the massive Fugro group, which is a Dutch-based corporation with more than 14.000 employees spread across 60 countries. Fugro-Salt Subsea cooperates with Expro in terms of developing the new “AX-S”-system aboard Havila`s advanced construction vessel.
So far the development of this new system has been running for seven years and cost NOK 1.2 billion in research and investments in ground-breaking new technology. The breakthrough appeared around a month ago when tests in the Norwegian Onarheim fjord proved very successful.
“AX-S” is a brand new system for well intervention involving remote-controlled subsea tools. The new system is, according to both the Havila management and the management of Fugro-Salt Subsea, a revolutionary system using solutions so far never utilised in subsea operations from a construction vessel. This involves employing extremely advanced remote-controlled subsea tools during well intervention that can handle up to eight different tools within the same operation, as well as using a light fibre rope instead of heavy steel wires. These are the main elements of the recent innovation. Should the system also win approval in a business sense, it could have a major impact on the offshore light well intervention market.
STABLE HAVYARD VESSEL
In the last year-and-a-half the 110 metre long vessel, a ship now docked in the port of Montrose between Dundee and Aberdeen, Scotland, has looked more like a research station than an offshore vessel. Havila Phoenix has been outfitted with a 35 metre tall tower and several modules on deck with a combined weight of over 500 tonnes. And there is no coincidence that the Scottish group has chosen a Havyard 858 design for this unique project.
– We needed a big, solid and modern vessel, and Havila Phoenix has lived up to all our expectations. If we fully succeed with this project we will likely be looking to acquire vessels of a similar design, but we will then need to be part of the planning straight from the start and get more of the system directly integrated below deck, says Operation Manager Darren Bown of AX-S.
The captain of Havila Phoenix, Leif Magne Lynge from Gursken, Norway, confirms that the vessel still remains impressively stable despite the enormous added weight.
– Yes, things have been working really well and the vessel also performs really well for its purpose. Facilities are also excellent, says Lynge who`s been captain aboard the vessel since the initial delivery. Captain and crew are definitely looking forward to heading out to the North Sea in order to start using this exciting new system.
UNIQUE REMOTE-CONTROLLED TOOLS
Michael Earlam of Fugro-Salt Subsea informs that there are several factors making the AX-S system a world sensation. In addition to the utilization of fibre ropes instead of wires for AX-S deployment, Earlam emphasizes the remote-controlled handling and deployment of the subsea packages with the ability to deploy 8 subsea tools is each time is unique.
– By using traditional well intervention equipment you can only perform one task at a time before the equipment needs to be raised to the surface in order to swap tools and then perform a subsequent operation. The equipment used in the AX-S system manages to handle eight various tools while on the seabed, without having to be raised to the surface to swap over any tools. This makes the operation much more effective and cost-efficient, Michael Earlam informs.
And after seven years of preparation the system is nearing its baptism of fire. In September, Havila Phoenix with 500 tonnes of “subsea factory” on deck will be heading out to work in the British sector of the North Sea.
– Yes, following the successful commissioning of the AX-S system on NUTEC’s “cold well” in Onharheimsfjord, south of Bergen, during April and May be performing operations in the North Sea, the Operations Manager for AX-S, Darren Bown of Expro, confirms.
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The company said the gas was originating thousands of meters below the sea bed, which engineers said might mean that a relief well – one possible option to stop the leak – could take months to drill.
“The leak is from a (gas) well that was plugged one year ago and from a rock formation in about 4,000 meters depth,” a company spokeswoman in Aberdeen said on Thursday.
A flare needed to relieve pressure in the platform by purging excess gas has continued to burn less than 100 meters from the leak, and engineers said changes in wind and weather could lead to an explosion.
“The wind is pushing the gas cloud in the opposite direction (from the platform). At this time, the circumstances are rather favorable,” Jacques-Emmanuel Saulnier, head of communication at Total said in an interview published on Total’s website.
“A gas cloud is always a fire hazard,” he added.
Total kept two fire-fighting ships in a state of readiness outside a two-mile exclusion zone, which was set up to protect marine traffic, a Total spokeswoman said.
The company has also brought in a robot vessel, not yet deployed, to scan the sea bed for signs of spillage, she said.
Total has not yet found a way to stop the gas leak. A team of international engineers assembled by the embattled French oil company are drawing up plans to tackle the leak and prevent the flare from coming into contact with the gas cloud, the spokeswoman said.
The platform is currently off limits to the engineers, however, given the toxic and explosive plumes pumping out of the wellhead.
The leak started on Sunday and forced the evacuation of all 238 workers from the platform, which sits in waters less than 100 metres deep and 240 km (150 miles) off the east coast of Scotland.
PRESSSURE SEEN FOR RELIEF WELL
Total warned on Tuesday it could take six months to halt the flow of gas. The company previously stated it hoped the leak would die down from natural causes as reservoir pressure drops.
“What we know is that the leak is not coming from a well dug by Total but from a naturally occurring pocket of gas located just above one of our wells,” said Total’s Saulnier.
The depth of the non-producing reservoir that is feeding gas to the Elgin platform via compromised layers of piping suggests, however, there is more gas present rather than less, piling pressure on Total to drill a relief well, an engineer with knowledge of the matter said.
Relief drilling would require boring through 4 kilometers of rock with painstaking mathematical precision, because it must intercept the gas pocket at exactly the right point, requiring constant alterations in course, the engineer said.
The leak, one of the biggest in the North Sea for decades, could well inspire tougher safety regulation in due course, according to experts. Britain’s health and safety watchdog said it was considering launching an investigation into the incident, while union officials said the frequency of offshore safety lapses had become intolerable.
Memories are still raw in the North Sea industry of the Piper Alpha platform fire 24 years ago, which killed 167 people in the world’s deadliest offshore oil disaster and led to a major regulatory overhaul.
Total as well as UK authorities have described the expected environmental impact from the plume of gas and a spreading sheen of light oil on the water as “minimal”, although environmental experts said much of the gas “cocktail” would be either flammable or poisonous at close quarters.
Total’s shares have lost about 9 percent in the wake of the incident. They were trading at 37.63 euros at 1305 GMT.
Analysts said the French oil major could face costs of up to $10 billion if its North Sea gas leak leads to an explosion and nearly $3 billion if it takes months to fix.
However, Jefferies securities and investment bank said in a research note that data that had emerged on the spill, which “has further convinced us that the spill consequences should be less than the most pessimistic market estimates and hence that the US$9.7 billion sell-off in the stock since Monday is overdone”.
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