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STX Finland Delivers Research Vessel to South Africa

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STX Finland Rauma Shipyard delivered a polar supply and research vessel to the South African government’s Department of Environmental Affairs on April 4th.

The vessel named S.A. Agulhas II is a multipurpose vessel, and can operate as a supply, research and passenger vessel, as well as an icebreaker.

The flag-changing ceremony was witnessed by many, among which were the representatives from the client, the South African Government’s Department of Environmental Affairs, as well as the Embassy of South-Africa in Finland, The South African Maritime Authority, classification society Det Norske Veritas, STX Finland and the press.

Toivo Ilvonen, the Director of STX Rauma Shipyard, said:”We are proud to deliver this multipurpose vessel to the client. The project has offered valuable experience and expertise in the design and building of demanding polar research and supply vessels to the personnel of STX Rauma shipyard and all our partners involved in the project”.

The ice-strengthened vessel can accommodate a crew of 45 and about 100 passengers. It is approximately 134 metres long, capable of carrying out marine and geological sea floor research, and keeps continuous record of meteorological data for weather services.

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Oil leaders, GOP allies, downplay administration’s seismic plans

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House Natural Resources Committee chairman Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash, leads a committee hearing. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Posted on March 28, 2012 at 11:37 am
by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

The Obama administration’s announcement that it may allow seismic studies potentially paving the way for offshore drilling along the East Coast is political posturing designed to distract voters concerned about high gasoline prices, oil industry leaders and Republican lawmakers said today.

The administration’s move “continues the president’s election-year political ploy of giving speeches and talking about drilling after having spent the first three years in office blocking, delaying and driving up the cost of producing energy in America,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash. “The president is focused on trying to talk his way out of what he’s done, rather than taking real steps to boost American energy production.”

At issue is Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s announcement in Norfolk, Va., this morning that the government is assessing the environmental effects of allowing seismic surveys along the mid- and south-Atlantic that could help locate hidden pockets of oil and gas. If ultimately approved, the studies by private geological research companies also could help guide decisions about where to place renewable energy projects off the coast.

The Interior Department is issuing a draft environmental impact statement that assesses the consequences of seismic research on marine life in the area. The Obama administration had planned to release a similar document in 2010, before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

If the draft environmental assessment is finalized after public comments and hearings, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management could give companies permits to conduct the studies off the coasts of eight East Coast states.

Salazar said that if the geological research turned up promising results, that could open the door to offshore drilling in the area within five years, even though the administration currently has ruled out that kind of exploration before 2017. A government plan for selling offshore drilling leases from 2012 to 2017 does not include any auctions of Atlantic territory.

“If the information that is developed allows us to move forward in a quicker time frame, we can always come in with an amendment,” Salazar said. “We’re not prejudging that at this point in time. My view is … we need to develop information so we can make those wise decisions.”

Industry officials noted that under federal laws, it could take years for the government to revise the 2012-2017 leasing plan, even if federal officials decided to pursue Atlantic drilling.

Erik Milito, upstream director for the American Petroleum Institute, said the administration is repackaging old news and old plans to make it appear it is making real progress to encourage more domestic energy development.

“This is political rhetoric to make it appear the administration is doing something on gas prices, but in reality it is little more than an empty gesture,” Milito said.

Randall Luthi, the president of the National Ocean Industries Association, likened the administration’s announcement to giving the industry “a canoe with no oars, since there are no lease sales planned anywhere off the East Coast.”

If allowed to conduct seismic surveys, geological research firms would ultimately give the resulting information to the government and sell it to companies eager to analyze the data.

But Milito questioned whether seismic companies would pursue the work, given that some of their best customers — oil companies — wouldn’t be able to use it to plan offshore drilling for years, if at all.

“Without an Atlantic coast lease sale in their five-year plan, the administration’s wishful thinking on seismic research has no ultimate purpose,” Milito said. “The White House has banned lease sales in the Atlantic for at least the next five years, discouraging the investment and job creation, and ultimately production, which would make seismic exploration valuable.”

Still, at least six companies already have told the government they want to conduct seismic research along the East Coast.

“We have gotten significant expressions of interest from companies in contracting for these seismic surveys,” said Tommy Beaudreau, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. “I am confident that, assuming the process continues on the track we anticipate, that there will be significant interest next year in conducting these surveys.”

Geological research uses seismic waves to map what lies underground or beneath the ocean floor. The shock waves — which some environmental advocates say may harm marine life — map the density of subterranean material and can gives clues about possible oil and gas.

Seismic studies also help identify geologic hazards and archaeological resources in the seabed — information useful in determining the placement of renewable energy infrastructure as well as oil and gas equipment.

The existing seismic surveys of the Atlantic coast are decades old, and in the years since, “there have been enormous technological advances,” Salazar noted.

“We do need to have seismic moving forward so we can really understand what the resource potential is,” Salazar added.

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Obama administration advances plan for seismic research along Atlantic coast

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Posted on March 28, 2012 at 12:01 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

The Obama administration will announce Wednesday that it is advancing a plan to allow new seismic research designed to help identify hidden pockets of oil and gas in Atlantic waters along the East Coast.

The move by the Interior Department is the beginning of a long path that eventually could lead to new offshore drilling off the coast from Delaware to Florida.

Senior administration officials who spoke exclusively to the Houston Chronicle confirmed the plan on condition they not be identified ahead of the official announcement.

The plan could mean new work for Houston-based seismic firms, which likely would conduct some of the first such surveys of the region in decades.

The announcement comes as President Barack Obama tries to assuage concerns about rising oil and gasoline prices ahead of the November election, amid Republican criticism that his energy policies have sent costs higher.

The administration had signaled plans to allow Atlantic seismic research before the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill stalled approval of offshore activities.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will announce the plan in Norfolk, Va. at Fugro Atlantic, a company that conducts geotechnical and marine research.

Future seismic research in the Atlantic waters could help guide decisions about where to allow drilling leases and equipment that generates renewable energy, such as wind turbines.

But it would be at least five years before the government sold any leases in Atlantic waters. Interior Department plans governing those decisions through 2017 do not include lease sales  in the region.

Geological research uses seismic waves to map what lies underground or beneath the ocean floor. The shock waves — which some environmental advocates say may harm marine life — map the density of subterranean material and can gives clues about possible oil and gas.

Seismic studies also help identify geologic hazards and archaeological resources in the seabed —  information useful in determining the placement of renewable energy infrastructure as well as oil and gas equipment.

Energy companies use the data to plan where to buy leases and how to prioritize projects. But they know little about what lies below federal waters along the East Coast. Existing seismic surveys of the area are more than 25 years old and were conducted with now-outdated technology.

Oil industry officials have downplayed the significance of allowing seismic surveys along the Atlantic Coast, noting the government makes no guarantee that it will let them drill. That skepticism also could limit the market for seismic research firms.

But the administration has said that collecting the data for different regions — even if they aren’t targeted immediately for development — is key to understanding their potential. Obama asked the Interior Department to speed up its search for Atlantic resources in May 2011.

Wednesday’s action takes the form of a federally required draft statement on the environmental effects of seismic surveys in the outer continental shelf along the East Coast.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on that draft environmental impact statement during hearings along the East Coast.

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MODU Market Spending to Reach USD 48.1bn in 2012

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A large amount of undeveloped offshore oil and gas fields as well as new offshore discoveries will help drive the Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODU) market, especially in deepwater.

With strong oil prices persisting, major energy companies are increasingly reinvesting their earnings in exploration and development of offshore oil and gas basins. Visiongain calculates capital expenditure in the MODU market will total $48.1bn in 2012.

According to the International Energy Agency, global oil demand will rise from 88 million barrels today to around 99 million barrels in 25 years time. Over this period the cost of extracting oil will be higher and production from offshore resources will not be as expensive as it was relative to development of onshore hydrocarbons.

Although new technological improvements mean fewer people will be needed on offshore oil and gas drilling rigs, the construction industry behind MODUs and assembly of related technologies is providing employment for thousands of people. For example, the Brazilian marine construction industry has emerged on a vast scale to enable its offshore industry to provide MODUs and technologies for Petrobras to meet its vast oil production targets from its offshore resources.

Most super-major oil and gas companies as well as independent oil and gas companies have each secured a share in the hydrocarbon-rich offshore regions across the globe and demand for MODUs is strong. Meanwhile, health and safety standards and technology have both improved across the industry, leading to a backlog of orders for new-build MODU.

The Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODU) Market 2012-2022 report includes 144 tables, charts and graphs that analyse quantify and forecast the MODU market in detail from 2012-2022 at the global level, four submarkets and for 7 regional markets. The analysis and forecasting ahs been reinforced by extensive consultation with industry experts. Two full transcripts of exclusive interviews are included from Friede & Goldman and Maxeler Technologies. The report also profiles 55 leading companies involved in the MODU market.

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Norway: Statoil Plans to Establish New Operational Area on NCS

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Statoil said it intends to establish a new operational area on the Norwegian continental shelf, which will be based in Harstad with start-up in the first half of 2013.

Statoil is setting up a separate operational area in Northern Norway due to the considerable increase in activities taking place off the three northernmost counties in Norway.

“This will boost our presence in Northern Norway and help ensure added value from the Northern fields in the future. Ever since the merger in 2007, and the setting up of Operations North in Stjørdal, we have expressed our intention of establishing a new operational area in the North when activities and materiality justified such an industrial decision – and we are now seeing that level of activity,” states Statoil CEO Helge Lund.

Lund adds that there are also expectations of further activities in Northern Norway, owing to the increase in exploration in newly opened acreage, and in areas expected to be made available to the petroleum industry; initially the Barents Sea, and subsequently areas in the north-eastern Norwegian Sea.

Increased activity in Northern Norway

To begin with the new operational area will be responsible for the already operative Norne and Snøhvit fields, as well as for the Åsta Hansteen field, for which a decision will be taken later this year. In due course the Skrugard/Havis field will also report to the new operational area, which will be managed along similar lines and carry the same executive authority as other operational areas.

Meanwhile, it is the intention to locate the Åsta Hansteen field’s operational organisation in Harstad, the supply base in Sandnessjøen and the helicopter base in Brønnøysund. These choices have been made after consultation with the partners on the field and final decisions here will be taken in connection with the impact assessment study.

“In wishing to base the Åsta Hansteen operational organisation in Harstad, we are envisaging the possibility of synergy effects obtained from a joint localisation with the Norne field. A new operational organisation will also boost competence and enhance the specialist milieus in Harstad,” says the executive vice president for Development and Production Norway, Øystein Michelsen.

The creation of this new area of operations will entail an increase in the number of employees at the Harstad office. Once the decision on Åsta Hansteen is taken, more employees will join the new area; overall the increase is likely to amount to some 30-50 persons.

Work on the detailed planning of the new operational area in Northern Norway is now getting under way. The area will commence its operations in the course of the first half of 2013.

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Norway to Power Offshore Platforms from Land?

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The operators and licence holders for the Johan Sverdrup, Dagny, Draupne and Luno fields in the North Sea will study setting up a hub for the supply of electrical power from land. The study will form the basis for a decision on electrification.

The study, which has been initiated by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, is headed by Statoil and involves the operators Lundin and Det norske oljeselskap, as well as the other licence holders. The work will comprise technical studies, such as concept planning, as well as commercial solutions for the electrification of the fields on the Utsira High. The intention is to create a framework for potentially setting up a company or partnership to own and operate the facilities that will feed the receiving platforms with power.

It is primarily the gigantic Johan Sverdrup discovery – together with Luno, Draupne and Dagny, including Eirin – that makes such a shared power solution possible. Preparations will be made for the possible subsequent tie-in of other installations on the Norwegian continental shelf.

The study will take in an offshore distribution platform located near Johan Sverdrup, with DC cables from land to the distribution platform and AC cables on to the receiving platforms. An analysis of the power situation at the potential land-based connection points will also form part of the study.

There will be the additional requirement for converters and transformers on the distribution platform and on land. AC cables will also be necessary and the existing switching station will need to be extended for connection to the grid network.

The progress plan for study will, to a large extent, be governed by the plans of those who will be in receipt of the power.

A concept will be selected, and the investment decision made,at the earliest in the fourth quarter of this year.

The decision to electrify will be taken by the licence holders/owners, on the basis of profitability, the official specifications and the conditions stipulated . Utsira Height can be well suited for electrification due to its considerable power needs, as well as the favourable distances and water depths involved.

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USA: Sub Sea Research Locates Port Nicholson Shipwreck

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Sub Sea Research LLC, a Portland Maine based company located the worlds richest shipwreck, a WWII British Freighter carrying a secret cargo of 71 tons of Platinum sunk by a German U-Boat off the coast of Cape Cod.

Sub Sea Research (SSR) spent months searching for the elusive ship, the Port Nicholson, torpedoed by German U-boat U87, June 1942. It took two torpedoes and about 7 hours to sink her. U-87 also fired at the troop ship the “Cherokee,” quickly sinking her with a heavy loss of lives.

The Port Nicholson is a steel-hulled, 481 ft. merchant ship, coal fired freighter built in 1918 at the Tynes & Wear shipyard. She was carrying two special envoy USSR agents overseeing the delivery of a very important Lend-Lease payment from the USSR to USA. She along with 4 other commercial vessels were being escorted by an unusually high number of military ships. The normal ratio at the time was near 1:10 or less but this convoy ratio was 6:5. Maybe it was the fact they were delivering 1,707,000 oz. troy, in 400 oz. bars of platinum. Strangely the two USSR special envoy individuals quickly disappeared after being rescued and brought to American shores. They were not de-briefed like all the other survivors were.

SSR first discovered the Port Nicholson in 600-800 feet of water off Cape Cod in 2008. In 2009 SSR obtained legal recognition from the US Courts as the legal owner and salvager of the ship.

SSR researchers corresponded with individuals manning the ships and even spoke with another U-boat captain who was in the same area. They have talked with survivors and relatives of the men of the Port Nicholson and the Cherokee. One Yarmouth, MA author has written a book and is waiting for “the last chapter” of raising the valuable cargo of the Port Nicholson. These researchers also found declassified documents verifying the cargo as well as the debriefing of the sinking.

According to SSR research, the Port Nicholson and four other ships were being escorted by six military ships in a convoy from Halifax to New York. The Port Nicholson is documented to be carrying ~1,707,000 troy ounces of platinum. It may also contain $165M of copper, zinc and war stores. Greg Brooks, one of two SSR founders, said his team has already recovered several identifying and critical artifacts. He has verified that “it is without a doubt the Port Nicholson”.

Late in the summer of 2011, after 100’s of hours of ROV video, they have seen what appear to be bullion boxes containing 4 bars, each being 400 troy ounces of precious metal. “We have seen boxes indicative of those used to store and ship this type of bullion in 1942. Our video clearly shows the box and our inspection class remotely operated vehicles (ROV) could not lift it due to its weight of about 130 lbs.”

A similar discovery occurred in 1981 when the HMS Edinburgh was discovered in the Barents Sea. It too carried a USSR Lend-lease payment. This wreck, in 800 feet of water, took almost three years to salvage in 1981 (Salvage of the Century) and contained $100M of gold (1981 prices). Richard Wharton, one of the original salvagers, provided SSR with photos and dimensions of the wooden boxes from the HMS Edinburg containing the gold bullion bars. These wooden bullion boxes were the same type shipped within six weeks of the Port Nicholson. According to Brooks, “We used our manipulator arm to scale our box dimensions. They appear close and almost exactly match the boxes salvaged in 1981. Mr. Wharton’s photos are almost identical to the boxes we have seen on our wreck. We nudged and pushed the boxes with maximum thrust from our ROV. We have verified these boxes have unusually high mass as one would expect for bullion. What is different from the Edinburgh boxes and unique to ours is that ours are very well preserved and do not easily come apart. Things are very well preserved. We even flipped the pages in a book and the pages remained intact. That was amazing to see.”

“We have been working and planning the site since 2009. Our current equipment is just not enough to handle the 2-5 knot currents, mostly zero visibility and the excessive ocean conditions at the site. It takes us 10 hours from Boston Harbor to get to the site. And, conditions such as these leave few and very small windows of onsite time each year in which we can safely work on the site. We certainly underestimated the conditions and maybe over estimated our capacity even with the 214 ft. M/S Sea Hunter and a 95 ft. ship M/S Son Worshipper fully equipped with a sub, ROVs, 125 ton crane, claw and sonar gear.

Photos taken from the HMCS Nanaimo at the time of the sinking show the Port Nicholson bow straight up in the air. She went down straight and slammed to the bottom vertically, stern first at about 30 mph and is now lying on her starboard side. This position, along with the numerous metal, wires, pipes, booms, debris as well as 70 years accumulation of fishing net snags makes access extremely difficult from the deck side. “The holds are not upright and we certainly are not simply going down into the holds with a lift and pulling up the cargo. We may have to cut into the hull to gain access and that is complicated and requires a different tool set. The ship carried war stores thus requiring even greater caution and safety procedures.”

“There is nothing more frustrating for each of our crew, as well as our financial supporters, to see, touch and feel the bullion box and not be able to quickly and simply retrieve it. There is nobody on this earth who wants to bring up that box more than me. We’ve been at it a while now.”

While the ship, M/S Sea Hunter is capable of remaining on-site in almost any weather, SSR has exhausted the capability of the ROV and support equipment. SSR is now entertaining private support from special technical and financial organizations. The operation needs to re-capitalize so that SSR can order or retain a heavy duty state of the art work class ROV, fully outfitted with the tool set to complete the salvage and bring a bar on deck. This specialized equipment costs about $2.5M, requires well trained support crews and is capable of lifting heavy loads and has a long build/lease lead time of up to 20 weeks.

“Many marine technology firms are very interested in helping and being part of such an exciting treasure salvage project right in Boston’s back yard. They want to share in this once in life time adventure. And, it has a rich local and national history with a high degree of intrigue.”

“We have spoken with some interesting individuals and some family investment groups who are bored with traditional opportunities. They are certainly tired of the significant swings and losses occurring in the market today. They are most intrigued with the unique sense of history and adventure the Port Nicholson treasure simply from the excitement factor.

“Who wouldn’t want to be a treasure hunter, have a real piece of history (1942 platinum) and be able to say ‘I am a real treasure hunter’. It is every kid’s dream to be a treasure hunter and some adults dream of it too!”

“All we have left to do is get the right equipment to bring up the bars we have seen. 2012 is our year to make this all come to fruition!”

Sub Sea Research LLC (SSR), a Maine company founded in 1994, maintains a fleet of ships and scientific exploration equipment to engage in research, conservation, development and exploration activities around the world aimed at finding, recovering or preserving underwater shipwrecks of special historical and cultural significance.

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USA: The Bedford Report Releases Equity Research on BP and ATP Oil & Gas

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The recovery for oil and gas drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico remains slow this year. A study by Quest Offshore Resources shows that the number of active rigs in the Gulf is currently 37 percent less than before last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster due to slow permitting and steep regulation.

Recent measures taken by the Obama Administration look to boost activity in the Gulf region. However the Administration’s plan falls far short of what the oil industry and its Congressional supporters demanded. The Bedford Report, a company that “provides Equity Reports that provide investors with short term and long-term growth opportunities, value, and strong potential returns”, examines the outlook for companies in the Oil and Gas sector and provides equity research on BP PLC and ATP Oil & Gas Corporation.

Last month the Obama Administration announced its proposed five year plan for offshore drilling, calling for opening new areas in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska but bars development along the East and West Coasts. “It will have an emphasis in the Gulf of Mexico,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. “We see robust oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Besides the Gulf and the Alaska leases, the proposal includes a small portion in the eastern Gulf about 150 miles off the Florida coast. The rest of the eastern Gulf is off limits due to a congressional moratorium.

Last month BP announced that it received approval from the US Coast Guard’s on-scene coordinator for its shoreline cleanup operation plan roughly 18 months after the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico. Under the plan approved by the Coast Guard, BP will end active cleanup operations and focus on restoring the areas damaged by last year’s oil disaster. In October US regulators approved a plan by BP to resume offshore oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.

ATP Oil & Gas Corporation engages in the acquisition, development, and production of oil and natural gas properties in the Gulf of Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the Dutch sectors of the North Sea. Earlier this month the company announced that it sold its deep-rights interest in one of its Telemark Hub properties in the Gulf of Mexico. “ATP is eager to encourage exploration into deeper horizons at ATP’s Telemark Hub and in close proximity to ATP’s existing infrastructure, the ATP Titan,” said president Leland Tate.

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