November 2001

Offshore update

New Ocean Policy Commission; Subsea installation action

Nov. 2001 Vol. 222 No. 11 
Offshore Update 

Robert E. Snyder, 

Ocean Policy Commission; other offshore developments

The newly formed U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy met publicly for the first time, starting the 18-month clock, during which the panel must complete its comprehensive review of ocean and coastal activities and formulate its recommendations for a national ocean policy. The commissioners elected Admiral James D. Watkins, Ret., as chairman and established a committee structure to focus closely on certain policy areas.

In June, President Bush announced his appointments to the commission, formed as a result of the Oceans Act of 2000. The commission will make policy recommendations on issues such as: possible change to laws on use of ocean resources; assessing ocean-related facilities and technologies; reviewing the supply / demand of ocean resources; and reviewing opportunities for developing ocean products / technologies.

At the meeting, the new commissioners agreed on a committee structure to address: Governance; Research, Education and Marine Operations; and Stewardship. A fourth committee on Investment and Implementation will be phased in later. Rowan Drilling’s Paul Kelly was placed on the Stewardship Committee. The next meeting will take place November 13 – 14 in Washington, D.C. To facilitate a dialogue between the Commission and the spectrum of ocean industries, NOIA is facilitating a multi-trade association working group, the Oceans Commission Taskforce, that will work to ensure that the Commission remains balanced in its approach. For more information on the Commission, or the NOIA taskforce, visit the NOIA website:

Subsea installations still strong. As reported in The Offshore International Newsletter of September 24, worldwide subsea installation activity is seeing growth. OIN says increasing use of central processing hubs to accommodate several tie-backs has caused the growth. Shell, TotalFinaElf (TFE) and BP, to name a few, are utilizing this concept. "The economics are good, and industry will see more of these processing hubs put in place, as well as longer subsea tie-backs."

The two leading areas are Northwest Europe and the U.S. Gulf, with 20 and 22, and 16 and 25 installations under construction and in planning / design phase, respectively. The next three most active areas are: West Africa, SE Asia and Latin America, with 2/9, 3/5 and 5/2 installations, respectively.

OIN highlighted Shell’s U.S. Gulf activities in Manatee field, and five field tie-ins to the NaKika FPS. TFE’s Aconcagua field and Marathon-operated Camden Hills will call for four subsea trees. Major subsea developments noted in the North Sea include Shell U.K. E&P’s Penguins project, a cluster comprising five fields. TFE got approval to develop Otter field, which will have five subsea tie-backs. And a major development off Nigeria under study by TFE could have as many as 40 subsea wells tied back to the Akpo field FPSO, if the project proceeds.

GOM FPSOs still awaiting approval. Also, as reported by OIN, the Minerals Management Service notes that the scheduled decision date for approval of FPSO use in the Gulf of Mexico remains sometime this fall. However, an MMS spokesperson said, fall now is more of a "moving target." Bureaucratic red tape is likely the primary cause for uncertainty surrounding the issue. The MMS still does not have a new director. Deputy Director Dr. Thomas R. Kitsos is serving as the agency’s acting director. The approval of FPSO use is reportedly in the Bureau’s queue of items awaiting action, but the issue is moving forward more slowly than expected.

First composite riser tested. The world’s first composite riser, developed by Kvaerner and Conoco, has been successfully tested in a live drilling operation on the Statoil-operated Heidrun TLP in the Norwegian Sea. The riser’s weight is about half that of a steel riser and has been developed for production and drilling operations in deep waters. The system called CompRiser is made of carbon fibers and epoxy resin. It replaced an equivalent, high-pressure, 22-in. titanium riser joint in the drillstring on the TLP. After the first drilling cycle, the joint was thoroughly inspected and pressure tested by DNV. The riser will remain on Heidrun for further testing and operation.

Kvaerner Oilfield Products and Norske Conoco formed a Composite Alliance in 1995, and have since been involved in developing both composite production / drilling risers and composite tethers. The main incentive is to reach deeper waters, with composite risers to be applied for both drilling and production needs. The Alliance sees a large potential for its products and is now marketing the products globally to potential customers. They say this technology could facilitate cost-efficient deepwater field developments and, in some cases, contribute toward a step change in economical exploitation of deepwater oil and gas fields.

Vortex induced vibration. Shell has an interesting article in its September issue of Changes about how a couple of its research engineers "happened upon" the concept of using smooth-surfaced cylinders to cut VIV on risers operating in ocean currents. Engineers Don Allen and Dean Henning, in 1997, were testing various devices operated by a 45-m rotating arm in a water-filled basin. They were surprised to learn that an ultra-smooth fiberglass cylinder moved smoothly through the water, while a roughened surface generated vibrations.

This discovery led to further research, and recent installation of 30 fiberglass and gelcoat smooth sleeves on the Stena Tay semi drilling a well offshore Trinidad. Late in the program, the system encountered a 2-kt current, in which "you normally get quite a bit of riser vibration and some pretty significant deflection at the top." They saw no vibration and "it was steady as a rock."

The engineers have now found that they can get the same smooth surface effect using coatings of urethane paint. Potential cost savings for the industry could be enormous, Shell says. Typically, one day’s downtime on a deepwater rig can be about $400,000, and deepwater risers affected by VIV could easily be out of commission for much more than a day. Beyond the offshore drilling industry, the developers cite potential applications on industrial chimney stacks, aerospace structures and bridge / tunnel supports. The U.S. Navy is also extremely interested. WO

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