England's eastern promise

May 1, 2012

'The scope of [NAM/Shell] well repair and maintenance work will see [Kraken] visit nearly 50 platforms.'

Offshore oil & gas and wind power opportunities for England's eastern region were debated at the biggest ever conference staged by EEE GR (the East of England Energy Group) in Norwich this spring. Meg Chesshyre joined the throng.

Seajacks UK is expecting delivery of its third self-propelled jackup, the Zaratan, from Dubai's Lamprell yard this month. Seajacks, which started up in 2006 and ordered its first two jackups purpose-built for the North Sea – the Kraken and the Leviathan – from Lamprell the following year, had a turnover of $219 million in 2011 and now has 50 onshore and 200 ofshore staff.

Zaratan, which is twice the size of the first two vessels and boasts an 800t crane, is more targeted at offshore wind, but has still been built to oil and gas regulations. Seajacks UK managing director Blair Ainslie told the EEEGR gathering that the new jackup represents a $150 million investment. Looking further ahead, he said there are plans for three more vessels, which Seajacks hopes to have ordered by the end of this year, representing another $500 million commitment.

'The prize is to invest in skills, people, expertise and equipment to push the split to 40-50%. This is achievable.'

The Kraken was contracted by NAM and Shell UK last December to work on one of the largest well repair and maintenance campaigns in the southern North Sea. The programme is scheduled to last for two years. The jackup mobilised for the project from the Dutch port of Ijmuiden, where it was commissioned with a complete well servicing package.

The Seajacks taking shape in Dubai.

'The scope of well repair and maintenance work will see the vessel visit nearly 50 platforms and perform tasks such as coiled tubing interventions, installation of velocity strings, in addition to well testing and wellhead maintenance,' explained Ainslie. This campaign is expected to extend the life of some wells by up to 10 years.

Meanwhile Leviathan was contracted by Scira Offshore Energy in February to install turbines at the UK's Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm. This work is expected to continue until June/July following whichLeviathan will head for German waters. Under a $200 million installation contract from WindMW that will involve both Leviathan and Zaratan, Seajacks is to install 80m monopole foundations, transition pieces and 3.6MW turbines for the €1.3 billion Meerwind project, starting in August.

Decom learnings

Perenco's 'useful' learnings from a couple of years' UK North Sea decommissioning experience were discussed by the company's decommissioning manager, Keith Tucker. Perenco has operated extensive Southern North Sea (SNS) gas field assets for eight years and its decommissioning activities to date include two remote subsea suspended wells, three platform wells, three subsea wells, one pipeline network, one jacket and topsides structure and one onshore process stream. The company is currently working on decommissioning three subsea structures, two remote suspended wells and three platform wells and has a more substantial programme going forward.

The decommissioning of Perenco's Welland platform, a fairly typical NUI (normally unattended installation) of the 1980s/1990s, which began in 2010, is now 95% complete (OE April 2011). 'There is still a small amount of tidying up work remaining,' said Tucker, noting that for Welland decommissioning the geographical cost split was 87% UK, of which 21% (£7.5 million) was in East Anglia and 13% abroad. He asked what the supply chain and EEEGR delegates thought of that 21%; could it be improved upon?

According to Tucker, some 200 southern North Sea installations will be up for removal, requiring an estimated £4-5 billion budget over coming decades. Based on the Welland sample performance the region might see decommissioning revenues of £1 billion.

'The prize,'in his view, 'is to invest in skills, people, expertise and equipment to push the split to 40-50%. This is achievable.'

Attended by more than 320 delegates, the Southern North Sea conference was the last for the EEEGR’s John Best (pictured), who has now stepped down as CEO of the rgoup he founded 11 years ago. It was sponsored by Seajacks with support from the University of East Anglia, ODE and the European Regional Development Fund.

Equipment delays

A presentation by Paul Jeffs, head of production and operations at RWE Dea UK, included an update on progress on the Breagh and Clipper South gas field developments, involving a total spend of £750 million, both of which have suffered delays over the late arrival of equipment. The Breagh platform installation was on schedule, pipelay was delayed by one month, the rig arrived four months behind schedule, and first gas is expected in July. For Clipper South the platform was installed close to schedule, pipelay was delayed by six months, the rig arrived three months behind schedule and again first gas is looked for in July.

Jeffs pointed out that projects in the southern North Sea compete for capital against other sectors within RWE Dea by being reliable, working to schedule, to cost, to produce what has been agreed. 'Any delay makes it harder to attract capital for a repeat project, makes it more difficult to sell.' He called for better alignment between the E&P companies and the contracting companies. He agreed that it was in the industry's interest for contractors to make a reasonable profit and maintain a competitive market place. 'We observe that the spirit of co-operation has largely evaporated and in many instances the adversarial approach has returned, fed either by a seller's market, limited competition or both. We are squabbling over the slice of cake, while the cake itself is shrinking.'

Jeffs felt that cost and schedule overruns compromised one of the competitive strengths of the southern North Sea and concluded that the costs of gas field development and operation were growing to a level where southern North Sea opportunities were becoming unattractive. 'One of our competitive strengths can be reliability. It is time to re-energise initiatives such as CRINE/LOGIC to increase alignment, deliver economies through standardisation and to aid with reliability.'

Southern spend

The Shell/NAM entity ONEgas, is looking at spending £500 million over the next three years in the southern North Sea to ensure the integrity of the facilities for the remaining lifetime of the producing assets, ONEgas West projects manager Oliver Kleyn told the conference. It is also nearing the end of the six-platform Inde decommissioning programme.

Current projects include a rejuvenation programme for Bacton – originally built in the 1960s – taking place while the gas terminal is live, and a revamp of the compression facilities on Leman, which Kleyn said could involve either a brownfield solution, requiring a lot of manpower, or a new compression platform. 'The costs are not too far apart, but the risks are very different,' he explained. A decision on the preferred solution will be taken later this year, with the work due for completion at the end of 2014.

There are also plans for up to three new one-well subsea developments on the Dutch side of the North Sea. OE

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