Rig stacks underline drilling slowdown

Cromarty Firth Port Authority is currently servicing three drilling rigs and one tension leg platform (TLP) hull at its IRM facility in northern Scotland.

Offshore staff

ABERDEEN, UK-- Cromarty Firth Port Authority is currently servicing three drilling rigs and one tension leg platform (TLP) hull at its IRM facility in northern Scotland.

This is a marked change from the situation a year ago, when the complex in Invergordon had no rigs, said Port Manager Captain Ken Gray at Offshore Europe. "We are seeing more and more rigs coming in because North Sea day rates are dropping.

"Previously, contractors were reluctant to bring their units in for work programs because rig rates were higher. Now the demand is not there, they are trying to do catch-up."

The current visitors to the deepwater port are the semi-subs Ocean Guardian, which at present has no assignments pending; the Borgsten Dolphin, and the Sedco 712, complemented by the jackup Ensco 80. Three of the rigs are warm-stacked while the fourth is cold-stacked.

The Ensco 80 - the first Ensco jackup to rest up in Cromarty Firth - is just about to head north to the Outer Moray Firth to undertake work on Ithaca Energy's Jacky field.

Kerr-McGee's former Hutton field TLP hull, now owned by Redwater N.V., has been in port for the past eight months. After Hutton was decommissioned, the platform was towed to a fabrication yard in Murmansk, Russia, where its topsides were removed.

The 32,000-ton (35,274-metric ton) hull remained in Murmansk for two years while undergoing several changes of ownership, before eventually being transferred to a fjord in Norway and de-ballasted. In January it was under tow to another yard in Spain for conversion to a rig, but the contract fell through, leading to the current cold-stacked status in Cromarty Firth.

The Port Authority can accommodate up to 18 rigs at anchor, and all other types of subsea construction and support vessels. Subsea activity has also slowed recently, Gray says, but should pick up once the planned new projects west of Shetland get under way.

Currently 70% of Cromarty Firth's business is oil and gas-related, he adds. "We expect this to decline over the next five to 10 years to 60% or possibly 50% as the North Sea becomes more mature."

Nevertheless, the company plans press ahead with a £15-20 million ($24-33 million) investment to reclaim more land in order to produce more quayside space, which would allow it to accommodate larger offshore vessels such as FPSOs and drillships.

09/10/2009

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