The campaign will include another first for the Well Enhancer as she will be undertaking her deepest project to date at approximately 1,540 ft (470 m) water depth. The Well Enhancer’s current specification allows her to work in water depths of up to 1,970 ft (600 m).
The Well Enhancer’s arrival represents the emergence of the LWI market for a region which is experiencing rapid development.
The Well Enhancer’s strong track record and Well Ops UK’s reputation as a market leader in providing subsea well intervention services in the North Sea was key in obtaining the award for the African project. This is because Well Ops North Sea clients also own significant interests offshore West Africa and key personnel already understand the methodology and technology behind riserless well intervention operations.
The campaign will include remedial workscopes on six wells by way of a subsea tree replacement, production enhancement, well maintenance and well integrity work.
The Well Enhancer, launched in 2008, provides oil and gas production companies the opportunity to undertake a multitude of workscopes across a number of wells in various locations with the ability to transit between wells and gain access to a well via a Subsea Intervention Lubricator (SIL) well control package to intervene.
This method is both a much quicker and less expensive option to the conventional approach of using a drilling rig. Using LWI vessels also frees up drilling rigs to undertake the operator’s drilling, completion and well work-over projects.
The Well Enhancer, as with sister vessel Seawell, can also provide the operator with up to an 18-man saturation diving system rated for 984 ft (300 m). This offers clients increased options and flexibility when undertaking well work and can support light construction and inspection, repair and maintenance projects within the field, thus maximizing the capabilities of the assets.
Aberdeen-based Helix Well Ops UK (Well Ops), a business unit of Helix Energy Solutions Group (Helix ESG), was at the centre of a recent exercise that successfully tested the UK oil and gas industry’s ability to deploy a well capping device.
The purpose of the Emergency Equipment Response Deployment (EERD) exercise was to simulate the logistical process of responding to a well control incident. This involved transporting a well capping device, loading it on to a vessel and lowering it over the side before fixing it to a specially-built simulated well on the sea floor.
Led by the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group (OSPRAG), the exercise was conducted from the Well Ops vessel the Well Enhancer at a site in block 206/4, around 75km north-west of Shetland.
The exercise was part of the UK oil and gas industry’s response to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Well Ops was able to implement best practice learnt by its parent company Helix Energy Solutions Group, which had played a key role in the response to that incident.
Launched in 2009, the Well Enhancer provides remotely operated vehicle (ROV), diving and well intervention services. It features a 150-tonne multipurpose tower fitted with passive and active heave compensation (AHC) and is capable of deploying wireline, slickline and coiled tubing (CT) tools to a depth of 1,000m. The vessel also features kill pumps, an intervention lubricator control system and a 100-tonne crane which is operational to 600m.
Following arrival at the test site, the first stage of the exercise involved deploying a specially-built landing base onto the seafloor at a depth of 300m, in order to accurately simulate a subsea well. This was deployed over the side of the vessel by the onboard 100-tonne main crane. Having recreated the subsea environment, ROVs were deployed to distribute a non-toxic fluorescent dye which replicated the use of subsea oil dispersant in a live well control situation.
The next element of the EERD process saw heavy-duty cutting shears being deployed to sever subsea marine pipes. The two choke lines and one riser were cut using an ROV-mounted saw and the cut sections recovered to deck. This process is necessary to clear the riser out of the way and allow the cap to be landed and seal off a blown-out well.
The 40-tonne demonstration cap was then lowered 300m by wireline, run from the AHC multi-purpose tower, through the Well Enhancer’s moon-pool and landed onto the simulation well. AHC keeps the load at a fixed position relative to the seabed and avoids the vessel’s motion being transferred to the load. ROVs were then used to lock the cap onto the base and activate the valve functions. The trial used a device that was of similar size and weight to the actual well cap which was launched at Offshore Europe 2011.
On completion of the exercise, all the equipment, including the landing base, was recovered back onto the deck of the Well Enhancer and no negative effects to the marine environment were detected.
Steve Nairn, Well Ops’ regional vice president of Europe and Africa, said: “The well capping device is a major and important piece of equipment for the UK oil and gas industry. This test has demonstrated the industry’s ability to respond to a major well control incident and underlined the capability of light well intervention vessels.
“The UK has not experienced a blowout for over 20 years and Well Ops is committed to working with the industry to ensure we are fully prepared should such an incident arise, but also to prevent such incidents in the first place. We are glad to have provided an effective contribution to this successful exercise.”
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- New well-capping device unveiled (bbc.co.uk)
- Subsea:The Riserless Light Well Intervention – (Video) (mb50.wordpress.com)
Susan Buchanan Sunday, September 11, 2011
Marine Management, LLC managing member Cliffe Laborde (left), with Peter Laborde
As seen in the August edition of MarineNews, Susan Buchanan updates readers on the GOM oil production situation.
BP’s gushing well was capped more than a year ago but life is hardly back to normal in the U.S. Gulf–where rigs and vessels remain underutilized. At least ten rigs have moved overseas since last summer. Gulf oil production is below pre-spill levels and won’t recover anytime soon, analysts say. Issuance of drilling permits picked up this spring as operators agreed to use oil-containment systems but permitting lags earlier rates.
Paul Candies, president and CEO of Otto Candies, LLC, in Des Allemands, La., said offshore activity has increased recently, and “we expect to see a slow trend toward more drilling “ But the marine industry shouldn’t get lulled into a false sense of security. “We need to continue to push for more permitting of rigs and simplification of that process,” he said. Candies gave a positive report about his company, saying “all of our platform supply vessels are committed at present for extended periods. We have three inspection, maintenance and repair vessels on long-term commitments, and should have a fourth IMR vessel committed by year end.” Otto Candies is a marine transportation and offshore services company.
At Laborde Marine Management, LLC, in New Orleans, managing member Cliffe Laborde said “I think the worst is over, but we’re a long way from getting back to where we were shortly before the Macondo spill.” Laborde Marine, with operations in Morgan City, La., services the deep and shallow water drilling industry.
- Gulf Assets Move Overseas
Laborde provided some recent history, and explained how promising times in the Gulf had turned sour. “In early 2010, as the economy emerged from a two-year recession, the Gulf energy industry was beginning to bloom,” he said. “Utilization rates for deepwater support vessels were high, and charter rates were rising again. The outlook was very good, but then came the spill and the market has languished since.”
Laborde continued, saying “many deepwater vessels and rigs have moved out of the GOM to foreign areas, and many vessels and rigs that stayed in the Gulf are idle now, waiting on BOEMRE to issue new permits.” The granting of new drill permits has been “alarmingly anemic,” he added.
Rigs are underutilized in the Gulf this summer. The fleet utilization rate for all 52, offshore Gulf platforms was 40.4% on July 22, less than half the worldwide usage rate for platforms, according to ODS-Petrodata, Inc. Utilization of mobile rigs in the Gulf stood at 53.7% on July 22.
Meanwhile, other drilling regions in the world are closer to full capacity. In Europe and the Mediterranean, 96.3% of all platform rigs and 87.7% of mobile rigs were in use in late July. Oil and marine companies can’t afford to keep assets in waters where they’re not needed. Since the start of the deepwater moratorium in May 2010, at least ten rigs have left the Gulf of Mexico, and headed to Angola, Egypt, Congo, Nigeria, French Guiana, Liberia, Brazil and Vietnam. One of those rigs returned to the Gulf in March, however, and another is slated to come back this fall.
- Shallow Water Activity Could Slow Further At Late Year
In Morgan City, La., Dave Barousse, business development director at Fleet Operators, Inc., said “in the shelf market, or non-deep water at depths of 1,000 feet and less, we have not seen an increase in business because of the end of the moratorium. However, business has been steady as a result of the normal construction and maintenance work offshore that generally takes place during the summer months.” But, he said, activity is considerably slower than before the deepwater moratorium.” Fleet Operators owns and charters supply vessels for the offshore oil and gas industry. And Barousse said “we’re preparing for things to slow down tremendously once winter weather is upon us. The outlook is not very positive at the moment, and will be even worse by the end of the year.”
- Gulf Oil Output Projected To Decline This Year and Next
Crude oil production from the federal Gulf of Mexico is expected to shrink from 1.64 million barrels per day in 2010 to 1.49 million bpd this year and 1.38 million bpd in 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration‘s short-term energy outlook, released in July. Gulf output should drop by 150,000 barrels a day this year and another 110,000 bpd in 2012.
The EIA said this year’s decline stems from lower production in existing fields, last year’s drilling moratorium and a subsequent delay in issuing new drilling permits. Even before the BP spill and the drilling ban, the EIA expected Gulf oil output to fall this year.
- Issuance of Drilling Permits Lags Pre-Moratorium Pace
Jim Adams, president and chief executive of Offshore Marine Service Association, an industry group in Harahan, La., said the Administration’s approval rate for exploration and development plans is down 85% from pre-moratorium levels, and the number of drilling permits covered by exploration and development plans is off nearly 65%. He cited a study called “Restarting the Engine–Securing American Jobs, Investment and Energy Security,” released by IHS CERA and IHS Global Insight in late July.
Adams said “no industry can operate with that kind of shutdown.” He said the Obama Administration is sending rigs, boats and jobs overseas in an indefensible policy. OMSA represents more than 250 member companies, including about 100 firms that own and operate marine-service vessels. “The offshore marine industry remains in a state of crisis, almost as if the drilling moratorium was never lifted, and the only relief from excess capacity is overseas opportunities,” Adams said. “The Administration has strangled offshore drilling, and until that changes, we can’t look for better times in the marine industry.”
Adams said Washington has choked the Gulf shallow sector though it never had any significant spills. “There’s no reason that shallow water permits shouldn’t be 100% of what they were in the spring of last year, but we’re not even close,” he said. “The Administration isn’t interested in shallow-water or deepwater exploration.”
OMSA sent a letter to President Obama in February complaining about suspended offshore drilling and its impact on marine industry jobs. “We never heard back from the Administration and that’s because they know we’re right,” Adams said. According to OMSA, more than 50,000 wells have been safely drilled in the Gulf of Mexico over the past fifty years.
- Problems with Rig Permit Numbers
Adams said “BOEMRE numbers on Gulf drilling permits are completely misleading. We need to know how many wells are brand new that will lead to exploration and how many wells are being re-permitted from last year.” Someone looking at BOEMRE’s website might think that new wells are keeping pace with pre-moratorium levels, but they aren’t, he said. He added that oil and marine industries need to be able to compare how many exploratory wells are permitted. “It takes an average seven permits for a well to start producing,” he noted. In March, Senator David Vitter (R-La.) also sent a letter to U.S/ Interior Dept. Secretary Ken Salazar and BOEMRE director Michael Bromwich, complaining about inaccurate, federal information on Gulf drilling permits.
In their July study, IHS CERA and IHS Global Insight said an analysis of BOEMRE data provided several findings. “The current pace of plan and permit approvals is significantly below historical norms and indicates that the process is not working smoothly,” researchers said. And “the growing backlog of plans awaiting approval indicates that the industry remains ready to invest as quickly as it is permitted to do so.”
- Rigs and Vessels Adopt Oil Containment Systems
One way to get your vessel hired in the Gulf is to outfit it with spill-response equipment. After BP’s accident, BOEMRE issued new regulations requiring that rig operators be able to respond to subsea leaks and surface spills. In late July of this year, two Hornbeck Offshore Services vessels were added to the fleet of ships that can respond to a Gulf accident, the Marine Spill Response Corp. said. MSRC is a non-profit company that was established in 1990. Hornbeck’s HOS Centerline and HOS Strongline are vessels with oil-skimming systems, ocean boom, support boats and navigational systems that can support skimming at night and in stormy weather.
Hornbeck, based in Covington, La., in late May posted its first quarterly loss in over six years, but said it was diversifying by moving vessels into foreign markets. This summer, BOEMRE director Bromwich said his agency will issue more safety measures for Gulf rigs soon. At the fifth, annual World National Oil Companies Congress in the U.K. in late June, he said “offshore drilling in the U.S. and around the world will never be the same as it was a year ago. Changes that we have put in place will endure because they were urgent, necessary and appropriate.” More regulations will be issued, but not at the frantic pace of the past year, he said.
- Report Delayed On Who’s To Blame for Spill
In late July, a U.S. team examining the causes of the BP spill delayed the release of a final report as it continued weighing evidence. BOEMRE and the U.S. Coast Guard were expected to issue results of a joint investigation on July 27 but said they needed more time. The Gulf marine industry wants additional rigs to start drilling soon. Laborde said “the oil companies, the rig operators and the energy-service companies are all anxious and ready to get back to work. This would create jobs, improve the economy, increase government revenues through royalty income and taxes, and enhance our national security by lessening dependence on foreign oil.” Where the Gulf oil and marine industries go from here is up to decision makers in Washington, he said.
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By Trent Jacobs, Helix Energy Solutions
Currently there are more than 5,000 subsea wells scattered across the globe, with more being drilled every day. Many of those wells are already a decade old with many more not far behind. That’s why in the last several years the techniques offered through well intervention have become ever more necessary to keep up with rising global demand for oil and gas.
Well intervention holds the potential to extend the productive life of aging wells and repair damaged or underperforming wells. Well intervention can bring oil and gas companies substantially higher profits off otherwise non-economical wells. Helix ESG’s well intervention unit, Helix Well Ops, is the global leader in this specialized arena of offshore work and boasts some of the most advanced assets the industry has to offer.
But what exactly is well intervention?
Generally speaking, well intervention is any process that enhances the quality of the subsea well, provides data to help manage the production rate of the well or shuts off and safely abandons a flowing well.
One of the biggest challenges in subsea well intervention is keeping costs down. So rigorous and extensive preplanning is used to identify the best potential solutions while mitigating a multitude of known and unknown risks.
After assessing a particular well’s condition and selecting a proper treatment, which could involve a number of different procedures and contingency plans, a specific type of vessel is then selected to carry out the task. Most operations can be carried out using light and medium intervention vessels equipped with dynamic positioning like Helix ESG’s monohull vessels the Seawell and the Well Enhancer, but for heavy intervention work, like redrilling an under-producing well, an offshore drilling unit is needed.
Among all the various types of well intervention operations, through tubing is the most commonly applied. Through-tubing enables recompletion, stimulation or repair work to be done inside a flowing oil or gas production line for the entire length of the well.
This procedure is used to complete many different tasks including the removal of obstructions inside the well that may be blocking the flow of hydrocarbons, simply evaluating the well’s condition, stimulating the well chemically or repairing a damaged well casing. Each job requires a specific type of tool that can be delivered down inside the well itself and in light intervention procedures the systems used include coiled tubing, electric line (e-line), slickline and braided wireline.
Slickline is an unbraided wire used to deliver a wide array of specialized tools down into the well for maintenance and data collection. E-lines provide more flexibility for mechanical and electrical operations and can also send back real time logging data which means engineers don’t have to wait for the tool to be pulled back out of the well to learn of its condition.
E-lines can include the use of a braided line which is more complex than slickline and requires a special grease injection system to ensure there is enough pressure for the blowout preventer to seal around the wire as it goes down into the well.
Braided lines are stronger that slicklines and can be used to perforate wellbores with explosive charges or fish out logging and monitoring tools placed deep inside the well. Both slickline and e-line jobs can be completed without the use of a rigid riser that connects the subsea well head to a vessel floating on the surface.
Coiled tubing is by far the most effective and versatile tool for well intervention. Coiled tubing is a continuous string of tubing that can be rolled onto a spool and is used is often used to pump chemicals or gasses directly into the well to relieve blockage and increase flow. But coiled tubing is used for a wide variety of other tasks such as drilling, logging, cleaning, cementing,” fishing” out tools and well completion and production. In many cases coiled tubing requires a riser or a subsea tool known as an injector head that is placed on top of the well and can cut through the coil to shut off the flow of oil or gas if an unexpected problem arises. To perform these types of operations offshore,
Well Ops has a world class fleet of three purpose built vessels and an arsenal of heavy well intervention equipment that can be mobilized for work in all of the world’s major offshore oil and gas fields.
The mono-hull Seawell pioneered the light well intervention market with its inception over 20 years ago and continues to provide riser-less well intervention solutions in the North Sea. The Seawell is capable of conducting wireline and e-line operations and utilizes its diving capabilities for wells that can only be accessed by divers.
The cutting-edge Well Enhancer, launched in 2009 and also based in the North Sea, provides open water and riser based intervention services supported by diving and ROV capabilities.
Well Ops flagship, the Q4000, is one of the world’s most unique multi-service vessels and entered into service in the Gulf of Mexico in 2002. As a highly cost-effective alternative to using a drilling rig, the Q4000 is capable of virtually every type of well intervention operation, including subsea oil spill containment, and is can work in water depths beyond 10,000 feet.
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