WORKOVER TECHNOLOGY Jackup workover platform begins new era in Europe

Michael J. O'Callaghan Halliburton Energy Services The Irish Sea Pioneer, shown in a drawing, right, began operations on a 15-year contract in the Liverpool Bay complex last month. In October, a new generation of self-elevating operations support vessel (OSV) began operations in BHP Petroleum's Liverpool Bay fields development, off the west coast of England. The vessel, Irish Sea Pioneer, will be the largest such platform yet built and the first 0SV to service production facilities on


First station is 15-year contract for Liverpool Bay complex

Michael J. O'Callaghan
Halliburton Energy Services
The Irish Sea Pioneer, shown in a drawing, right, began operations on a 15-year contract in the Liverpool Bay complex last month.

In October, a new generation of self-elevating operations support vessel (OSV) began operations in BHP Petroleum's Liverpool Bay fields development, off the west coast of England. The vessel, Irish Sea Pioneer, will be the largest such platform yet built and the first 0SV to service production facilities on the UK continental shelf.

The use of the self-elevating workover platform, or lifeboats as they are also known, is an established and successful technology in calm, shallow waters offshore the USA, West Africa, the Mideast, and Southeast Asia, but novel in the European arena.

Halliburton Energy Services and BHP have taken proven Gulf of Mexico technology and evolved it for application in UK waters, the most challenging environment yet in which an OSV of this design will have operated. Effectively, standard lift boat technology has been combined with jackup drilling rig design in a purpose-built OSV providing cost-efficient infield services while ensuring that all safety and environmental requirements are met.

Design work began in early 1994 and fabrication just three months later. Brown & Root, a Halliburton company, provided on-site project management for the construction of the vessel at the Bollinger Shipyard in Louisiana. The construction of the legs was subcontracted to Le Tourneau.

The Irish Sea Pioneer is a self-propelled vessel of ship hull form, measuring 180 ft by 92 ft by 16 ft deep, with a 9 ft draft. Four 240 ft long lattice legs, powered by electrically-driven jacking systems, provide the self-elevating mechanism. The large working deck includes two electrohydraulic cranes. There is accommodation for 42. There is a high degree of technical enhancement. Propulsion, navigation communication, monitoring, safety, and control systems have been introduced in the Irish Sea Pioneer. A description of the vessel's systems follows:

  • Propulsion, controls: The composite propulsion system provides the Irish Sea Pioneer's maneuverability and reliability in positioning next to a platform and was a key in making the OSV the optimum choice for well intervention. Several propulsion options were examined before it was decided that four thrusters - two forward, two aft - were required to ensure adequate redundancy.

    The basic manual control system provides individual thruster control or a tandem mode whereby any two (normally both forward or both stem) can be operated together. The two aft thrusters will deliver approximately 1,300 hp each, the forward units 1,200 hp each.

    An integrated joystick control system operates on top of the manual control system. This system simultaneously controls all four thrusters from one joystick, providing manual dynamic positioning capability in concert with laser positioning.

    The laser positioning system provides an accurate indication of the position of the OSV relative to a platform. It consists of a laser ranging head, optical reflectors on the platforms and a small computer on the OSV. As the OSV approaches the platform, a solid image of its actual position is overlaid on the computer. Accuracy of the system is reported to be within 7.87 inches for the laser unit up to 1.24 miles from the reflector targets on the platform.

  • Leg, jacking systems: These systems are also keys to the operation and must be highly-reliable and quickly deployable. The leg design and jacking system has to meet seabed conditions, current, wind and wave forces, and operating load requirements for a wide range of tasks.

    A rack and pinion system is used to raise the vessel and utilizes a variable speed electromechanical jacking system integrating legs, jacking gear and control system. It includes a unique control and motor system to give infinitely variable speed control and automatic load and level control. Once two or more legs have any significant weight applied, the vessel is effectively anchored.

    The change from traditional 0SV tubular-style legs to truss/lattice-style was necessary to reduce weight and wave drag. Thus, each leg must have three sets of jacking motors and pinions.

  • Main deck layout: The superstructure is located as far forward as possible to maximize the separation between the wellhead satellite platforms and temporary refuge, and a large open deck aft to improve operational capability. The concept is ideally suited to the water depths in Liverpool Bay (7-30 meters) and to the multi-platform development.

The Irish Sea Pioneer began its 15-year contract in November, servicing four fields in the integrated Liverpool Bay development (Blocks 110/13 and 110/15): Douglas (oil), Hamilton and Hamilton North (both gas), and Lennox (oil and gas).

BHP's partners in the project are Lasmo North Sea, Monument (Liverpool Bay) Petroleum, and PowerGen (North Sea). First oil and gas production is scheduled for December, and first contract gas sales for mid-1996. The oil will be loaded into tankers via an offshore storage installation, while the gas will be piped to BHP's new terminal in North Wales and then to PowerGen's power station, which is under construction at Connah's Quay.

The facilities at Douglas include a central production gathering platform, accommodation unit, and wellhead tower, with not-normally manned platforms at the other fields.

John Methven, BHP's production manager, Irish Sea, points to the fact that in the UK sector, "the use of an operations support vessel marks a change in approach to managing satellite platform operations. It provides the advantages of operational flexibility and significant capital savings by enabling smaller, not normally manned, minimum facility satellite platforms to be used at the Hamilton, Hamilton North and Lennox fields.

The multi-purpose OSV will be a flexible resource, available for deployment at short notice to undertake a range of tasks wider than previously attainable by a single support vessel, including electrical submersible pump maintenance at the Douglas wellhead tower and well workover at all four fields in the integrated development.

Offshore Mag comicons Off 12po

This closeup drawing shows the various systems and arrangements aboard the operations support vessel, Irish Sea Pioneer.


Applications for the vessel include platform planned maintenance, accommodation, platform breakdown repair, heavy lifting, structural inspection, diving/ROV support, pipeline inspection and maintenance, well data acquisition (electric wireline), well workover (hydraulic workover/snubbing), well interventions (coiled tubing, stimulation, slickline), and well testing.

The offshore installation manager controls and operates all satellite platform functions from the platform control center (PCC) while the OSV is alongside. The PCC, on the second level, contains a telecoms rack, minimum facilities panel (emergency shutdown system and fire and gas panel), remote wellhead control panel, and closed circuit TV monitoring of critical areas on the satellite.

The fire and gas systems on the OSV and the adjoining satellite platform will be linked during periods of combined operations. Alarms are initiated automatically in the PCC and the designated control rooms of the Liverpool Bay installations. The Irish Sea Pioneer's fire pumps and interface connections have been designed to connect to the fire water pumping systems on the unmanned platforms so that deluge and platform hydrants are available during combined operations.

The port-side crane has an 80-ft fixed boom and the capacity for a 20-ton lift at a reach of 64 ft. The starboard crane has a 110 ft fixed boom and has been sized to make well-servicing related lifts.

The OSV is equipped with a cargo handling system designed to protect the main deck from unnecessary cargo-associated welding or cutting and to enhance operational efficiency during transport and positioning of equipment for well intervention and platform maintenance.

Other performance characteristics include a transit speed of 6 knots, a transit sea state of 6.56 ft significant, a jacking speed of 12 ft/minute for lowering legs and 6 ft/minute for raising the hull.

The life cycle contract awarded to Halliburton Manufacturing Services for the 15-year lease of the vessel is valued at about 㿨 million. Group member, Seaforth Maritime Services, a Brown & Root subsidiary in the UK, will provide the marine management, including crew handling, maintenance and operations, during the contract.

In mid-1995, BHP issued a letter-of-intent to Halliburton for integrated well intervention and workover services, including offshore personnel and equipment and onshore technical, logistical and maintenance support for hydraulic workover, coiled tubing, stimulation and wirelining. The contract takes the form of an initial five year contract, with options for extension and a total value of approximately 㿀 million.

Michael J O'Callaghan has been Halliburton Energy Services' Business Development Account Leader for the North Sea UK area since 1990. Based in Aberdeen, he has been with Halliburton for 16 years and previously held positions in the Middle East and the USA. He received his BBA degree from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1982.

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