US Gulf fabrication facilities specializing, expanding
The Genesis Spar and Spirit Platform shown being built at Aker Gulf Marine, Ingleside, Texas. The Baldpate Compliant Tower awaiting tow-out at Aker Gulf Marine's Ingleside, Texas yard. [36,737 bytes] The push for deepwater development, meaning new jackets, spars, compliant towers, tension leg platforms, subsea templates, and other structures yet to be designed, are forcing US Gulf of Mexico fabrication facilities to expand and specialize.
Aker adds new technology, workers
The Genesis Spar and Spirit Platform shown being built at Aker Gulf Marine, Ingleside, Texas.
- The Baldpate Compliant Tower awaiting tow-out at Aker Gulf Marine's Ingleside, Texas yard. [36,737 bytes]
These new development systems require a higher degree of precision than previously practiced. Cuts, welds, and module tolerances are all computer designed and often computer controlled. This applies to standard jackets for use on the shelf as well as the new systems that will operate in the US Gulf deepwater. The growing demand and new technology are forcing fabricators to expand investments in construction equipment and people.
Active shelf development continues to provide work for new jackets, pilings, and topsides. In addition to this increase, many older fields and structures are being decommissioned. These retired structures feed a secondary market for refurbished structures for use on the shelf. The newest thrust is for structures suitable for deep water.
Rig building by certain fabrication yards led the charge into this more challenging environment. US Gulf yards are retooling to meet the need for production structures tailored for stronger current and wave forces in deeper water. At least 24 deepwater developments are in the planning stages and 12 more are needed to develop recent discoveries. This means more yards will be bidding on deepwater design and construction contracts.
The US Gulf is not the only deepwater theater needing new structures. Significant developments are needed offshore Brazil, West Africa, the North Atlantic Margin, Timor Sea, South China Sea, and for the future, the South Atlantic.
Yard expansionThe most recent example, and one of the largest, is Aker Maritime. To address the evolving US Gulf deepwater needs, the firm made a corporate commitment to specialize in deepwater designs. The firm is expanding the Aker Gulf Marine yards in Texas - at Ingleside and Aransas Pass. The Ingleside yard is specializing in deepwater structures, while the Aransas Pass yard is focusing on topsides and pipe forming and cutting.
Aker Maritime's designs make up 20% of the semisubmersible fleet and 50% of FPSO newbuilds. Aker has built eight of the nine tension leg platforms in existence and all of the deepwater spars.
Following the current trend to larger all-in-one capabilities, the company has encompassed design, engineering, construction and structure emplacement into its organization. Aker also created alliances in front-end technology, project solutions, and strategic topsides with deepwater partners such as Amoco, Arco, Conoco, Enserch, and Shell. Aker Gulf Marine claims its efforts to promote safety, despite the expansion, have earned it OSHA's Star Workplace Award and the Clean Texas Star Award.
In order to earn a strong position in the market, Aker Gulf Marine says it tries to anticipate needs in the US Gulf. As an example, the firm pointed to a dropped piling at Baldpate (see Gulf of Mexico column). Although the job was not originally theirs, Aker Gulf Marine was able to produce a replacement piling on a quick contract, reducing downtime on the project.
Fabrication divisionAker Gulf Marine's Aransas Pass yard is building a large sheltered workspace - a metal structure 300 ft by 400 ft by 60 ft - dedicated to building topsides. The new environment will shield the precision work from steady winds and occasional weather problems that can create delays. In addition, the pipeyard is being expanded by 30% to accommodate expected growth.
The Ingleside yard has expanded its space to build several structures at the same time. As of this writing, three different structural designs: a deepwater jacket, spar, and compliant tower are being completed (see accompanying photos).
Fabrication facilities cannot expand to take on more work without having a fully trained work force. Labor demand is strong but skilled workers are few. Aker Gulf Marine is rebuilding a talent pool reduced by the mid-1980's market collapse. According to Myron J. Rodrigue, President and General Manager, the yard is currently adding 10-15 trainees per month, which will ultimately produce the craftsmen, needed to assemble future production structures.
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