By Justin Smith
HOUSTON — With the recovery of oil prices, worldwide offshore construction vessel activity has returned to a balanced, sustainable level.
Demand for derrick barges has stayed relatively balanced over the last several months. At the end of December, 30 vessels were working, as there was in April and at the end of July, with just a couple of small dips experienced along the way, according to data gathered by ODS-Petrodata.
Demand for derrick pipelay vessels is about the same now as it was a year ago, resting at 34. However, in the interim, demand hit a peak of 42 last October. The fleet has grown slightly and now consists of 53 vessels.
Pipelay vessel activity has been on the rise over the last year, going from 24 working last August, to 34 at the end of July. Pipelay/bury vessel demand took a hit over the winter, but it has mostly recovered. In February, only two out of 13 vessels were working. But now nine out of a fleet of 17 vessels have found work.
DB50 gets an upgrade
While construction has not started on any new vessels over the last quarter, J. Ray McDermott is upgrading its primary Gulf of Mexico derrick/pipelay barge DB50 for future deepwater projects by adding new thrusters and increasing its electrical power supply.
The DB50 will have its entire power plant replaced with new diesel-engine generator sets totaling 19.2 MW, new switchboards and a state-of-the-art power management/alarm system. Also, the existing four 2.4-MW controlled pitch thrusters will be replaced with six new 2.4-MW fixed pitch/variable AC drive thrusters, which will provide 44 tons of thrust each. In addition, the freshwater and saltwater cooling system and the supply/exhaust ventilation system will be upgraded in both engine and thruster machinery spaces. The dynamic positioning control system was upgraded in 2007 with new hardware.
DB50 is capable of lifting loads up to 4,400 tons, and laying pipe through reel-lay and J-lay up to 20 inches in diameter, in more than 9,000 feet (2,743 m) of water.
Saipem has been awarded contracts in Angola and Italy for a total value of around US$650 million. including a contract for work to be conducted at the Kizomba Satellites Project off Angola.
Esso Exploration awarded Saipem contracts for the tieback work for the Kizomba Satellites development in Angola Block 15, around 90 miles (145 km) west of Soyo at water depths ranging from 3,280 feet (1,000 m) to 3,937 feet (1,200 m).
Saipem will be responsible for the engineering, construction, transport and installation of pipelines, umbilicals, risers and subsea systems connecting the Mavacola and Clochas fields to the existing FPSOs at Kizomba A and B. Saipem completed similar work at the A and B developments in the mid 2000s. Offshore operations will be carried out in 2011 by the Saipem-owned field development vessel FDS and heavy lift Saipem 3000.
Eni has awarded Saipem a contract for work in the Mediterranean Sea offshore Italy. Saipem pipelay barge Castoro 7, formerly Acergy Piper, acquired at the beginning of 2009, will carry out the work, scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of 2009.
Acergy S.A.has been awarded a new four-year contract for flexible pipelay and subsea construction vessel Polar Queen by Petrobras, with an option for an additional four years. The contract, valued at around US$260 million for the first four years, is for the provision of flexible laying services offshore Brazil. The contract is due to commence in early 2010.
Technip has been awarded two lump sum contracts by Anadarko for the Caesar/Tonga oil field development in the Gulf of Mexico. The first contract covers the design and supply of the components for four pipe-in-pipe flowlines and the installation of these flowlines, representing a total of 27 miles (43 km).
It also includes the design, fabrication and installation of eight pipeline end terminations. This development will use the pipe-in-pipe technology, which provides insulation and flow assurance for effective production in deep and ultra-deep water. Technip’s operating center in Houston will execute the contract.
The pipe-in-pipe flowlines will be welded and assembled at the group’s spoolbase in Mobile, Ala. Offshore installation will be carried out with the Deep Blue, Technip’s deepwater pipelay vessel.
The second contract covers the project management, engineering and fabrication of two control umbilicals and their termination hardware. The contract, which is scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of 2010, will be executed by Duco, Technip’s wholly-owned subsidiary in Houston.
The umbilicals will be manufactured at the company’s plant in Channelview, Texas.
Finally, Subsea 7 has been awarded a contract from BP Norway for engineering, procurement, installation and commissioning (EPIC) of the Valhall flank gas lift pipelines and wellhead platform riser caisson project in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. The contract has a value of around US$40 million.
The scope of work involves engineering, procurement and fabrication of subsea and platform components, installation of two eight-inch diameter pipelines, one 3.7 miles (6 km) long and the other 4.3 miles (7 km) long, and one new caisson on the wellhead platform and subsea tie-in spools at the Valhall Flank South and Valhall Flank North platform locations.