Pared-down Dutch fabrication sector responds to gas gathering upsurge

Dutch offshore fabrication yards that survived the crisis of 1990-93 are more optimistic now about their future, in light of the probable upsurge in Dutch sector gasfield developments. A shake-out of fabrication facilities followed the unprecedented halt to exploration drilling in The Netherlands in the early 1990s, so that only a few sizeable yards remain today. The situation would have been more desperate had the government not improved the Dutch offshore industry's plight by taking away

Jackup shortage forces holdback on some projects

Feico Houweling
Contributing Editor
Dutch offshore fabrication yards that survived the crisis of 1990-93 are more optimistic now about their future, in light of the probable upsurge in Dutch sector gasfield developments.

A shake-out of fabrication facilities followed the unprecedented halt to exploration drilling in The Netherlands in the early 1990s, so that only a few sizeable yards remain today. The situation would have been more desperate had the government not improved the Dutch offshore industry's plight by taking away some tax burdens and revising the regulatory framework.

As a consequence, exploration drilling picked up, leading to several new discoveries. The current shortage of jackups in the North Sea has forced some developments to be put on hold to 1999, such as RWE-DEA's Hanze, the Dutch sector's biggest new oil discovery for years.

As always, NAM and Elf Petroland are leading the line on new investments. Its L/9 development, due to be completed mid-year, will feature the Netherlands' highest treatment capacity platform in The Netherlands, operating at 590 MMcf/d, as well as acting as a host for other potential developments in the L and M quadrants. NAM also is converting two recent K7 discoveries containing 560 bcf combined under a DFl 300 million project.

Elf Petroland plans four large developments over the next three years in its K and L quadrant licences, all via wellhead platforms. The combined reserves are 765 bcf, and analysts Wood Mackenzie put total investment at DFl 650 million. Wintershall plans a modular processing platform for its 430-bcf D/15-FA Carboniferous gasfield, which also could handle gas from other nearby fields across the median line in UK waters.

Wintershall has a similar find in the German sector, A/6-B/4, which may warrant a production platform. Finally, Wood Mackenzie envisages a dedicated wellhead platform for the 60-million-bbl, 13-bcf Hanze Field with oil stored in a gravity base structure, offloaded maybe twice a week to a shuttle tanker. That project, which could be onstream by 2000, could cost around DFl 300 million.

Fabrication roll-call

As for the current workload, last July Elf contracted HSM to engineer, fabricate, hook-up and commission the K6-GT satellite platform. This is due for sail-out from Schiedam in August. K6-GT normally will be unmanned with process facilities. Total weight of the topsides and jacket will be 1,200 tons, excluding the 500 tons of piles. The $14 million contract assures 80 man-years of work at the yard. Scheduled production start is February 1999.

HSM also is building two 800-ton gas compression modules for Esso Norge's Jotun FPSO, under an EPC contract awarded to Stork Engineers & Contractors by Kværner Oil & Gas Norway. The package comprises two liftable units housing electrically-driven centrifugal compressors, a glycol unit, refrigeration unit and utilities. The modules should be shipped to Stavanger this October - total contract value is $25 million.

Mercon Steel Structures is constructing Elf's K4-A gas satellite platform under an EPCI contract awarded in October 1996. Tow-out is due this February. The Gorinchem-based yard, which is supplying all the main equipment and materials, is a favorite of Elf's, having built a range of platforms for its K4 and K5 blocks over the past few years.

Broader markets

The only Dutch fabricator with a broad mix of North Sea contracts is Heerema. Last fall, Heerema Hartlepool in the UK commissioned the group's Vlissingen yard to build the 900 ton Corvette jacket for Shell UK Expro, due out this July. The Vlissingen yard also should deliver BP's 3,500t Bruce II jacket in May and Shell's 5,800t Shearwater PUQ jacket in April 1999.

For the home market, the same yard is building NAM's K7-FD wellhead platform and the K8-FD-1 PAU module as part of a fast-track program to exploit marginal gas reserves in these blocks. Heerema's Grootint yard in Zwijndrecht is progressing rapidly with construction of the L9-FF-1 gas production platform, wellhead platform, 45-meter-long connecting bridge, and vent stack. The four-floor production installation (topsides - 4,200 tons) will also feature a 20-bed accommodation module and utilities. New discoveries notwithstanding, it may be the Dutch sector's last major platform.

Lower-profile Dutch yards also pick up contracts now and then, such as Clyde's P2/P6 gas jack-up production platforms built recently by Hollandia-Kloos and Volker Stevin Offshore (VSO). The two companies also are in the market to assemble a new, lightweight removable production platform concept, developed by VSO and Suction Pile Technology.

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