Norwegian contractors overhaul key drilling, pipelaying units

Kvaerner is involved in the upgrade of SOCAR's Shelf V semisub drilling rig. Leading contractors, including Kvaerner, Aker, Smedvig and Stolt Comex Seaway, are among the Norwegian companies becoming increasingly involved in exploration and production activities in the Caspian Sea, and particularly in Azerbaijan.

Nick Terdre
Contributing Editor
Leading contractors, including Kvaerner, Aker, Smedvig and Stolt Comex Seaway, are among the Norwegian companies becoming increasingly involved in exploration and production activities in the Caspian Sea, and particularly in Azerbaijan.

The latest significant contract won by Kvaerner, which has been active in the Caspian since 1992/93, is for the upgrading of the Shelf V semisubmersible drilling rig. Kvaerner will be part of an integrated team with BP, Statoil and the KNF shipyard in Baku, which is owned by the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR).

BP and Statoil, which are taking the rig on a five-year lease from SOCAR, plan to drill two wells on the Shah Deniz prospect with it, among other assignments.

Shelf V, which is based on the Pacesetter design, was partly built at the Vyborg shipyard near St Petersburg and assembled at Astrakhan in 1990. The radical upgrade, costing some $100 million, involves stripping off and replacing or upgrading existing equipment. The rig will then be capable of drilling wells down to 6,000 metres in water depths of up to 475 metres.

Most of the work, which involves stripping, construction and outfitting, will be carried out at the KNF yard, where the rig arrived in late March, according to Erik Sjoelie, vice president, marketing and sales, for Kvaerner Oil & Gas CIS.

In parallel, a power generation module is being fabricated at the Vyborg yard.

Where possible, existing equipment will be re-used. It is assumed, for example, that items such as cranes and winches can be refurbished and re-used. The living quarters will be expanded to accommodate 110 beds, an increase of 20.

Because of the water depth Shelf V will operate in, new and innovative mooring systems are being studied. According to Sjoelie, this will involve the utilisation of Aramid ropes instead of the traditional chain.

Under the leadership of Kvaerner John Brown (KJB), the contractor also has a $30 million contract for engineering, procurement and construction supervision for Azerbaijan's $275 million oil export pipeline to the Black Sea through Georgia.

Parts of the 900-km line, which will run from Baku to the Georgian port of Supsa, have already been built, and will be upgraded. New line will be installed over the missing stretches. With a diameter of about 20 inches, the line will have a daily capacity of some 150,000 b/d.

Kvaerner was also responsible for upgrading the ship-shaped pipelay barge Israfil Guseinov. The vessel, which recently underwent sea trials, has been booked to lay a 24-in oil pipeline to shore from AIOC's Chirag Field.

The contractor has also performed several studies, including conceptual screening and development studies, for both existing and new fields, among them the Azeri and Chirag Fields. It was also involved in the World Bank financed study for the redevelopment of Gunashli.

As its reference list of work in the Caspian grows, Kvaerner sees a lengthy future for itself in Azerbaijan. "We are determined as a company to remain here and establish a truly Azerbaijani operation," said Sjoelie.

Aker Maritime's activities in the Caspian are headed by Aker Rauma Offshore. In April this company was due to deliver the module support frame for international operating company AIOC's Chirag-1 production platform. Aker Rauma Offshore provided project management and procurement services.

Elsewhere in the Caspian, the contractor has a $20 million contract to transport the jackup drilling rig Marawah from Bahrain to the Caspian on behalf of Russian oil company LukOil. The rig will be taken to one of the contractor's yards in Finland, where it will be dismantled and transported through Russia over rivers and canals to Astrakhan, where it will be re-assembled.

Development of the Chirag Field has provided work for the Smedvig group, which has won a four-year, $18 million contract from AIOC, with extension options for a further two years.

Through its Aberdeen-based subsidiary, Smedvig will provide operations services and maintenance systems, which will involve some 55 personnel working in an integrated team with AIOC staff. The agreement includes options for engineering support and training.

Meanwhile Stolt Comex Seaway has a joint venture with SOCAR under which it is providing subsea services in the Azerbaijani offshore sector.

Its current assignments involve support for AIOC's current drilling programme with the Dada Gorgud semisub, and for the installation of the Chirag oil export pipeline.

The scope of services included in its joint venture agreement includes assistance to drilling operations, subsea construction services related to pipeline installation and field development, subsea inspection, maintenance and repair, installation of small diameter flowlines and integrated subsea engineering and development services.

SCS has also established a training centre in Baku where it provides training for ROV pilots and other subsea disciplines.

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