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Next Generation Vessel Design and Equipment Engineering Solutions Next Generation Offshore Vessels Opportunities and Challenges: The Outlook for Offshore Vessels Making it Pay: The Challenges Confronting Vessel Design Deep Water Production and the Age of the Giants Vessels of the Future

Sponsored by

Published by Global Business Media



Next Generation Vessel Design and Equipment Engineering Soluions Next Generation Offshore Vessels Opportunities and Challenges: The Outlook for Offshore Vessels


Making it Pay: The Challenges Confronting Vessel Design Deep Water Production and the Age of the Giants Vessels of the Future

Foreword 2 Tom Cropper, Editor

Next Generation Offshore Vessels


Leenaars BV, Marine & Offshore Design

Sponsored by

Published by Global Business Media

Published by Global Business Media Global Business Media Limited 62 The Street Ashtead Surrey KT21 1AT United Kingdom Switchboard: +44 (0)1737 850 939 Fax: +44 (0)1737 851 952 Email: Website: Publisher Kevin Bell Editor Tom Cropper Business Development Director Marie-Anne Brooks Senior Project Manager Steve Banks Advertising Executives Michael McCarthy Abigail Coombes Production Manager Paul Davies For further information visit: The opinions and views expressed in the editorial content in this publication are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent the views of any organisation with which they may be associated. Material in advertisements and promotional features may be considered to represent the views of the advertisers and promoters. The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily express the views of the Publishers or the Editor. While every care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, neither the Publishers nor the Editor are responsible for such opinions and views or for any inaccuracies in the articles.

Ultra Wide Monohulls Ultra Wide Heavy Lift Vessels Ultra Wide Crane Vessels Ultra Wide Pipelay Vessels Deep Draft Horseshoe Catamaran Ultra Slender Monohulls Horse Shoe Semi Submersible Campaign Runner Semisubmersible Crane Vessels Offshore Hub Pure Accommodation Semi Fast Crew Transfer Semi Deep Draft Production Semi ADOB Tank Next Generation Offshore Equipment

Opportunities and Challenges: The Outlook for Offshore Vessels


Tom Cropper, Editor

Commercial Outlook – Demand is Growing Challenges Solutions

Making it Pay: The Challenges Confronting Vessel Design


Jo Roth, Staff Writer

A Rise in Exploration and Production More Oil and Cheaper The Environmental Question

Deep Water Production and the Age of the Giants


James Spalding, Staff Writer

Into the Deep The Problem of Positioning Exploring the Extremes

Vessels of the Future


Tom Cropper, Editor

Age of the Giants Š 2014. The entire contents of this publication are protected by copyright. Full details are available from the Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

Fuel of the Future Going Down

References 16



Foreword T

HERE IS a sense that the oil and gas

We then go into the commercial backdrop against

industry has reached a cross roads. Despite

which operators are working. Offshore is seen as

millions of dollars being pumped into exploration,

the future of oil production, which is why so much

discoveries have disappointed over the past few

money is being invested to identify new sources.

years. Potentially lucrative resources have been

Tapping these areas, though, will require newer and

left behind, either because they are impossible to

higher specification vessels than the existing fleet

reach or simply too expensive. In addition, a greater

can provide. However, major challenges exist such

emphasis on environmentally friendly solutions and

as commercial sustainability and crewing.

cost create a need for a cleaner, more energyefficient offshore oil industry.

Jo Roth then goes into some of the latest developments which are marking this industry

Shipping can provide at least some of the answers.

including dynamic positioning systems, and drilling

Floating Production Supply and Offloading (FPSO)

ships which are making it easier and more affordable

vessels can reach deep water sources which others

to tap oil sources, while James Spalding looks into

cannot. Next generation fuels and technologies,

the world of deep water exploration and the gigantic

meanwhile, can help to improve their efficiency, safety

FPSOs being deployed in these areas.

and reduce their carbon footprint. This is why we’re

Finally, we cast an eye to the future, to some of the

seeing a changing of the guard as old vessels are

developments which could affect vessel design from

being retired in greater numbers and new up-to-date

new propulsion fuels to ocean based processing

ships being ordered to replace them.

plants and even sub-sea cities.

In the first article of our Special Report, Leenaars BV, which offers marine and offshore design, discusses some of the next generation designs for vessels that they have been working on including ultrawide monohulls hulls, crane vessels, drill ships and pipe-lay vessels.

Tom Cropper Editor

Tom Cropper has produced articles and reports on various aspects of global business over the past 15 years. He has worked, also, as a copywriter for some of the largest corporations in the world, including ING, KPMG and the World Wildlife Fund.



Next Generation Offshore Vessels Leenaars BV, Marine & Offshore Design

In offshore installation, the cost of a project largely depends on the number of days required for the operation multiplied by the price of the unit and its workability. Based on this simple principle, Leenaars Marine & Offshore Design has therefore concentrated its research on vessels with a high workability ( i.e. better motions) that can be built cheaper compared to present designs in the market. A brief summary of our wide range of vessels is given below to serve in various offshore markets based on: • High workability. • Low CAPEX • Low OPEX We can advise you on which SOLUTION is best suited for your operations.

Ultra Wide Heavy Lift Vessels In 1998 Leenaars designed and tank tested the Vanguard for Dockwise. This ultra wide vessel gives better support to often vulnerable semis whilst being transported and can accommodate overhang on the bow. Due to its size, the vessel has to load and discharge offshore. Extensive tank testing was done to prevent secondary motions submerged offshore. To prevent impact during loading and discharging in submerged conditions, offshore vertical movable casings were developed.

Ultra Wide Monohulls It is possible to design the large vessels with very short roll and pitch periods. Ultra wide mono hulls have great potential offshore. Tank tests, with scalable models provide the possibility to select the best size for operating in a given location. The size of the vessel should be bigger than 2 to 3 times the wave length encountered during the offshore operation. Challenging beam on conditions also require an extremely wide hull. Leenaars Marine & Offshore Design has developed a series of ultra wide wedged shaped mono hulls that retain an acceptable resistance when in transit and have low building cost, due to their simple shape. The relative short length of the vessels results in relative low thrust requirements and therefore less generator capacity is required. A combination of active ADOB tanks to dampen the roll motion and motion compensation on installation tools means that the workability can be further improved if required. Typical examples vessels that require good motion characteristics are : 1. Heavy lift vessels 2. Crane vessels 3. Pipelay vessels 4. Drill ships


Ultra Wide Crane Vessels Leenaars Marine & Offshore design has developed a Movable Shear Leg Gantry Crane for offshore operations. The Shear Leg Gantry Crane has a capacity of 7000 tons and can be repositioned along a rail on the vessel’s deck through a push-pull system. This allows for optimal use of deck stowage capacity without compromising the crane’s outreach. The crane has four blocks that can be moved independently of one another, enabling the crane to easily lift a wide variety of equipment, often without modifying lifting points or the need for custom made spreaders. When this crane is positioned on a simple barge of sufficient dimensions, good workability can be achieved. For many offshore locations, a barge WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 3


Leenaars Marine & Offshore Design has developed a series

size of 200m x 86m x 12m will give acceptable motions over the stern. The barge can be fitted with an anchoring system or thrusters and DP, depending on operational conditions. A cheaper simplified version of this crane is available that is fixed in position for inland use.

of ultra wide wedged shaped mono hulls that retain an acceptable resistance when in

capacity. The vessel can work on anchor up to a depth of 100 meters, reducing watch-circle and fuel consumption to a minimum. Submerged, the slot opening in the vessel gives substantial shelter to barges for the transfer of foundations or topsides. The motions of the barge can be further synchronized with friction clamps. The motions in the slot opening stay close to the center of buoyancy of the unit, leading to the lowest possible relative motions. Heavy loads can be handled with a relatively small investment. Mating is possible with simple mating units and friction clamps to reduce relative motions in 2 meters, significant with wave periods under 8 seconds. The following image shows a typical topside removal by the horseshoe catamaran.

transit and have low building cost, due to their simple shape


Ultra Wide Pipelay Vessels The ultra wide pipe lay vessel was developed for Arctic conditions with a very large pipe carrying capacity and high transit speed. These features enable it to operate from a suitable marshalling point without transferring pipes offshore in icy conditions. The vessel can handle 48 m quadruple joints in S lay and 96 m joints in J lay to increase lay-speed. The bend curve for S lay is largely inside the vessel preventing problems with the stinger in ice. The J lay tower can be fully enclosed to improve operations in cold climates. The pipe-handling cranes run over the full width of the vessel resulting in a high operational flexibility. The pipes are assembled to quadruple joints on the tween-deck.


Ultra Slender Monohulls

Deep Draft Horseshoe Catamaran The horseshoe catamaran is a deep draft horseshoe shaped vessel. It behaves like a catamaran in transit at a draft of 6 meters. When further submerged to 20 meters the vessel has a small water plane area relative to its mass and therefore excellent motions. This vessel performs best under conditions where the wave periods during installation stay under 8 seconds for most of the time. The North Sea is a good example of such an area. Under these conditions, the crane hook motions are better than on a semi lifting over the side, since the lifting point is above the center of buoyancy or total center of gravity. The horseshoe catamaran has a relatively high lifting and carrying capacity compared to a semi. Additionally, the new building price is 30% of a traditional semi with similar lifting 4 | WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM


US 90 US 120 US 180 The US series of monohulls has been developed with rolling periods over 16 seconds. This gives excellent motions in, for example, North Sea conditions. Variations in dead weight will


be compensated by ballasting and stepped waterlines. The use of anti-roll tanks can further reduce the roll motion. US 90 is suitable for IRM, diving, accommodation, standby, pilotage etc. US 120 and 180 are designed for accommodation, well testing and well stimulation. US 180 is designed for J lay and light drilling.

Horse Shoe Semi Submersible HSS 50 HSS 100 The large moon pool and excellent motions (a factor 10 better than a mono hull) make the HSS 50 and HSS 100 the best solutions for subsea work. The large slot opening allows lifting by winches or davits to the seabed. The motions in the slot opening remain relatively close to the center of buoyancy of the unit, leading to the lowest possible motions. Heavy weights can be handled with a relatively small investment. The use of three columns in combination with the large mass added by the floater leads to better motions than a four column semi. In combination with air driven open ballast tanks and Air Driven Open Ballast (‘ADOB’) tanks, the dynamic loads can be further reduced during pick up and landing. The three columns connecting the deck box and floater provide high strength and thereby relatively high survival conditions. Low Capex combined with high workability makes this vessel an excellent investment.

Campaign Runner CR 30 CR 60 CR 130 CR 150 CR 300 Cheap to build and run, this Offshore Support Vessel is designed for IRM and Wind Park Maintenance. It has excellent motions especially at the crane and gangway bridge positions. Excellent motions also contribute to the overall comfort of the crew during higher seas and safe helicopter landing/access even in adverse conditions. It provides, also, high workability of the crane and the gangway bridge. Other advantages include: Large deck area Can give shelter to daughter vessels (HSC and RIBS )

Excellent for Floating hose repair of FPSOs / cable repair and inter array cable lay.

Semisubmersible Crane Vessels SSCV 5.000 SSCV 10.000 Semisubmersible crane vessels that lift over the side have several advantages over traditional crane semis that lift over the stern. The time needed to counter-balance the lift is much easier to accommodate over the side. Also the pontoon furthest away from the lift can be substantially smaller. The size of the outrigger pontoon can be approximate half of the main pontoon, resulting in half the weight and half the thrusters required in the outer pontoon, thereby reducing CAPEX substantially.


When combined with a bracing-less design, this unique shape results in a high transit speed, excellent motions, optimized layouts for modes of operation and low OPEX. The 60.000 cubic meter per hour air driven ballast system and high crane speeds ensure the quick landing and recovery of loads. The cranes are suitable for water depth of up to 3000 meters.

Offshore Hub HUB 600 HUB 900 HUB 1200 With more and more work taking place further offshore an offshore Heliport is an economical solution for large daily crew transfers. The semi is characterized by large number of helicopter flights and a helicopter hangar. The semi is designed to accommodate the transfer of large numbers of personal ( 600 / 900 / 1200 ) people per day by helicopter. All personal can be exchanged WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 5

With more and more work taking place

within 24 hours. Further cost reductions during operations can be realized by mooring the vessel to reduce fuel consumption. For near shore we have a number of economic Jack Up solutions.

further offshore an offshore Heliport is an economical

Fast Crew Transfer Semi FAS 150 FAS 400 FAS 800 These semis are designed for 24 knots and for 35 knots with ride control taking a large part of the displacement in transit. Once at the offshore location they can submerge to improve the motions standby on DP. They have excellent motions with high comfort ratings in transit and standby.

Deep Draft Production Semi

solution for large daily

DDPS 80 DDPS 100

crew transfers

HUB 1200

Pure Accommodation Semi PASS 30 PASS 500 PASS 750 These semis are characterized by low building cost, excellent motions and low thruster capacity needed. The unique shape of the deck box allows for a high number of one man cabins with daylight or ocean view. Further cost reductions during operations can be realized by using weathervane options to reduce fuel consumption.

The DEEP DRAFT SEMI is designed to achieve the motions of a SPAR but with topside floatover capability. The unit is characterized by: • Simple shipbuilding construction. •T  idal tanks with compressed air equalizing loads inside and outside the columns and ring pontoon. •R  ing pontoon at a draft that eliminates movement by wave action. • Large heave plates to reduce motions further •T  he topside base is a standard barge type construction – deck box size of 80 x80 meters and 100 x 100 meters. • Weight 30.000 tons and 45.000 tons •T  opside floatover by standard offshore barges. The above features reduce CAPEX considerably. The interface loads during coupling are kept to a minimum by the relatively small water plane area of the DDPS. The motions are better than a SPAR due to the high mass (with added mass) and high natural periods.

PASS 750




ADOB Tank The Air Driven Open Ballast tank is a ballast tank with an open bottom. The water level in the tank is controlled by compressed air in a fast and effective way. The ADOB tank has great potential for compensating motions and the lifting and lowering of loads from a moving crane vessel. The dynamic behavior of water in such a tank was studied for practical applications.

Next Generation Offshore Equipment The next generation of offshore equipment is tuned to the capabilities of the vessel. Considerable cost savings and workability improvements can be made when the offshore equipment is designed together with the offshore vessel. Features include: •D  eepwater lifting systems using rope instead of steel wires. •M  ast and knuckle boom cranes that are compensated for roll and pitch. • Pipe and cable tensioners. • Stingers / Baskets • Large watertight visor doors.

Contact Pascalweg 19 3225 LE Hellevoetsluis The Netherlands Tel.: +31 (0) 181-316305 Fax: +31 (0) 181-328447 e-mail : KvK: 24474170 VAT: NL 8213.81.404.B.01 ABN/AMRO: 50 62 45 403 BIC: ABNANL2A IBAN : NL97ABNA0506245403 internet :


Opportunities and Challenges: The Outlook for Offshore Vessels Tom Cropper, Editor

Demand for oil support vessels is surging. However, cost restrictions, stringent regulations and a lack of experienced personnel create serious problems.

As oil exploration moves into deeper and more uncharted waters, it enters dangerous territories. The threats are multiple: hurricanes, storms, ice, corrosive elements to name but a few, while the consequences of an accident are that much greater


HE NEED to find oil has sparked a surge in exploration and production, which in turn is creating demand for a new generation of offshore vessels (OSVs) to cope with the unique environments they are likely to face. However, with discovery rates proving to be disappointing and vast resources of oil currently considered uneconomic, the challenge is to meet present and future oil demand in a way which makes the sums add up.

Commercial Outlook – Demand is Growing Much of that demand will be fuelled by an increasing emphasis on offshore oil fields in general and deep water sources in particular. A report published by Clarkson Capital1 in 2012 predicted that the percentage of oil extracted from deep water versus shallow water sources would increase from 15% in 2011 to 22% in 2014. Global capital expenditure on deep water enterprises is expected to grow from $22bn in 2010 to $63bn by 2015. Exploration will mostly take place in the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ of West Africa, the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil. However, there is also significant exploration taking place in the Arctic. Although exploration here is not necessarily going to take place entirely at extreme depth, conducting exploration in remote and challenging environments such as this creates a number of specific challenges for oil production companies. As a result of all this, demand for OSVs and Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessels is booming. The same report highlights that, at the end of 2012, the total count of the world’s OSV fleet had reached 2,967 vessels, up from 2,830 in December 2011. This fleet is increasingly made up of newer, and higher specification, vessels with approximately 70% of the fleet being comprised of vessels under


the age of 20 years. Over the past few years, scrappage rates have been higher than normal. The moment of change appears to have come in 2009 when a record 34 vessels were decommissioned. With its future increasingly lying in deep water and challenging sources, the industry is looking for newer vessels with high specification capabilities. Growth is being further fuelled by the need to tap smaller pockets of oil, for which a large scale oil rig may not be commercially sustainable. Both these and deep water projects lend themselves to the use of FPSOs. They reduce cost, by eliminating the need for a multi-million dollar rig and pipeline and they can move on to another field when one is exhausted. Equally, in rough seas, they can simply disconnect and move to calmer waters to wait out a storm. This could provide considerable benefits in the Gulf of Mexico region where hurricane season sees rigs regularly shut down and evacuated leading to substantial down time.

Challenges Opportunities, therefore, are abundant, but with these come a number of challenges. Skills shortages: Demand for oil support vessels may well be growing, but a skills gap is seeing vessels being produced faster than anyone can find crew. The Baby Boom generation is reaching retirement age and recruitment from the younger generation is lagging behind. There are opportunities at every rung from basic crew to electricians, diesel mechanics, medics, crane operators and drillers. Addressing this skills gap is seen as a top priority and has sparked a major recruitment drive.2 Safety: As oil exploration moves into deeper and more uncharted waters, it enters dangerous territories. The threats are multiple: hurricanes, storms, ice, corrosive elements to name but a



few, while the consequences of an accident are that much greater. The problem is exacerbated by the difficulty in assessing the likely problems to be faced. Assessing safety and reliability is made more difficult because of the challenges of replicating extreme environments. Opposition to deep water drilling stems from the difficulty of rescuing crew and stemming a leak. Capping the leak after the Deepwater Horizon explosion took months, while Greenpeace have argued that an oil leak in the Arctic would be impossible to clean up. With this come increasingly stringent regulatory requirements which, in turn, place a greater pressure on cost. Making it pay: Extracting oil from deep water and unconventional sources is expensive. Increasing yield of wells beyond current levels requires investment in equipment, technology and crew. Equally, exploring the depths will require investment in new vessels, which in turn bring increased running costs. The expense of any drilling operation can be measured by how much it costs to get started and how quickly oil can be delivered. Every second spent in transit costs money – at these levels the commercial case for oil production is marginal at best.

Solutions However, as the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. The prospect of new oil and

new revenues is spurring considerable investment into new ships and new exploration. New blood coming into the industry creates greater opportunities for innovation. A sticking point for development within the oil and gas industry can often be adapting experienced personnel who have worked with the same systems for decades to the need for change. New workers will be coming into the industry who have been trained using the latest techniques and technologies – as such, they will be more readily adaptable to innovation. To meet this new age, the major oil producing companies are sinking billions of dollars into new, top of the range ships. These include ultra wide hulls for deep water, double hulls for arctic travel, dynamic positioning technologies for maintaining position in deep and unstable conditions and much more. Furthermore, the race is on to provide cleaner alternatives to diesel which has fuelled the oil industry for decades. These, then, are exciting times for vessel manufacturers. The challenge they have been set is considerable, but so too is the sophistication of the designs they are coming up with from unprecedentedly large oil and gas tankers, to state of the art vessels with integrated technologies designed to squeeze every bit of performance differential in the search for our future oil demands.



Making it Pay: The Challenges Confronting Vessel Design Jo Roth, Staff Writer The world needs more oil, but getting hold of it is difficult. Here’s how vessel design is meeting the challenges presented in 2014.

All this has to be done in a way which allows companies to meet the commercial realities of the market


HE OIL and gas industry has traditionally been a world of slow change and long equipment life which is why scrappage rates for offshore vessels have been historically low. However, in recent years, that has begun to change. 2009 was a high water mark and rates have continued above the historical average ever since. The reason is that the industry is undergoing a period of evolution where meeting increased demand for oil production requires a new generation of vessel and equipment design capable of tapping unconventional sources and venturing into more difficult areas. At the same time, the regulatory environment is changing with a greater need to reduce emissions and extract oil in the cleanest possible way. All this has to be done in a way which allows companies to meet the commercial realities of the market; it’s certainly no easy task.

A Rise in Exploration and Production The last few years have been good for exploration and production (E&P) – a trend that is both a result of and a driving force for the design and implementation of new technologies. Major oil companies have spent approximately $1 trillion in exploration and discovery in 2014 and this seems set to continue for the next couple of years. Even so, the rate of return is low, which has some companies considering cutting back. In July, Total’s Chief, Christophe de Margerie, said they had given themselves until the end of the year for their high risk exploration efforts to pay dividends or cut the exploration budget3. Even so companies are still pushing the frontiers and the reason is pretty simple: they need to find new oil. The world is consuming oil faster than it can be discovered. According to a report from Investec, we consume 33bn 10 | WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM


barrels of oil a year and are only discovering 10 to 20bn. Although the expansion of shale gas has helped to increase supply and to stabilize the global price, discovering new prospects remains a high priority. However, oil is out there – the difficulty is extracting it in a commercially sustainable way. Considerable promise lies in so called frontier exploration in the Arctic and in presalt deep water areas off the coast of Brazil and West Africa. However, the immense complexities of obtaining this oil in a costefficient way diminishes return on investments and is discouraging exploration. These areas also bring the risk of considerable financial penalties. Shell’s exploration of the arctic initially hit problems when they failed to comply with emissions and clean water guidelines – incurring millions of pounds worth of penalties, without extracting any oil at all.4 Oil also exists in mature oil fields. Extraction of these wells is well below potential capacity, which leaves considerable reserves still in the ground. Companies have managed to


increase yield by techniques such as gas injection and horizontal drilling, but these bring with them increased costs and risk. Such is the expense of tapping these unconventional sources, that larger companies have moved their focus elsewhere.

More Oil and Cheaper Securing increased global oil production, therefore, means two things – accessing hard to reach sources in deep water, remote or hostile locations; or tapping unconventional sources which had previously been deemed uneconomical. It is here that vessel design is crucial and the major oil giants are investing heavily in Floating Production and Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels which can help access these hard to reach fields.

The Environmental Question Further complicating the commercial question, however, are environmental concerns. These focus on three areas: fuel consumption, emissions and safety. Crude oil is transported all over the world in the same way that it has been for years – in very large oil tankers. Aside from their own fuel consumption, concerns are raised over their emissions of nitrogen and sulphur oxides into the atmosphere. Tougher regulations regarding emissions have come into force over the last few years which expect to introduce an 80% reduction in NOX and SOX pollutants. The search is on, therefore, for new cleaner burning fuels for the next generation of vessels

with particular focus falling onto sources such as hydrogen, biofuels and liquefied natural gas (LNG). LNG is a relatively new concept in marine fuels and has the potential to dramatically reduce pollution from ocean going ships. Several innovative projects are currently taking place around the world with LNG including a concept ship named Triality, which, according to its makers, reduces CO2 emissions by 34% and NOX and SOX almost to zero. However, emissions represent just part of the story, with major concerns being raised over potential safety issues. Ships will increasingly be asked to venture further from the shore, into more demanding environments where the consequences of accidents can be severe. Rescue of crew can be difficult while stemming leaks from deep water and remote locations can be almost impossible. FPSOs are equipped with automatic shut off capabilities in the event of emergency, but if these fail, drilling lines can rupture, spilling crude oil into the sea. The challenges, therefore, are multiple, but so too are the innovative solutions being designed to meet them. Such are the rewards available for those oil companies which can deliver increased production in hard to reach and unconventional sources that oil giants continue to be willing to invest vast sums despite considerable economic risk. This in turn is creating a boom in innovation for vessel design and technology.



Deep Water Production and the Age of the Giants James Spalding, Staff Writer The future of oil exploration is in deep water, which is spurring a new generation of gigantic and highly advanced oil production vessels.

Areas such as the Gulf of Mexico have been reinvigorated by deep water oil exploration with experts predicting record rates of two million barrels of oil a day until 2020


N 1996, Total and its partners Royal Dutch Shell and Amoco Corp began drilling what would come to be the deepest well in history. The BAHA project was initially apparently a dry hole, but it did manage to locate previously undiscovered oil rich sands. It is now one of many ultra-deep water oil prospects, which today mark the future of oil production.

Into the Deep A few decades ago, few would have countenanced drilling for oil in depths of more than 400 meters. However, developments in seismic monitoring, drilling equipment and vessel design have seen the oil industry pushing the boundaries of frontier oil exploration further, and further. Today, it is not unknown to drill in depths of more than 10,000 meters, and to plunge miles into the Earth’s crust to extract oil in previously invisible lawyers of ancient rock formations. The benefits are considerable. Areas such as the Gulf of Mexico have been reinvigorated by deep water oil exploration with experts predicting record rates of two million barrels of oil a day until 2020. The US estimates that there may be as much as 15 billion barrels of oil to be discovered in the deeper regions of the Earth’s crust 5. According to the US Geographical Survey in 2012 approximately 75% of the world’s undiscovered, recoverable oil lies in South America and the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa and Arctic regions of North America. The trouble is, these are some of the most challenging environments in the world. The majority of potential oil finds are at extreme depth and lying deep within the crust. Areas such as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean are vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes, while new Arctic exploration encounters extreme cold, remote locations and ice flows. The task of discovering this hard to reach oil lies with a new generation of super-sized, high tech oil support vessels capable of going where



no vessel has gone before. FPSOs are seen as ideal for deep water exploration thanks to their ability to move from one field to another, and eliminate the need for an expensive drilling rig to tap a small field which might potentially only last for a few years. These vessels will need to be fitted out to survive the range of uniquely tough conditions they can expect to face. First of all, they will need to be big. Ultra wide hulls will be required to ensure stability in rough seas. In order to ensure safety in tough weather, they will have to be two to three times larger than the biggest waves they can expect to face and with some of these vessels operating in the roughest seas in the world, they will need to be pumped up to vast sizes. Shell’s Prelude6, designed to tap hard to reach gas fields has been labelled as the largest ship in the world, measuring slightly larger than the Empire State Building. However, this is only the beginning – Shell believes it could just be the first of a number of ultra-sized vessels in its fleet in what could turn out to be a game-changing moment for the industry. One of the vessels pioneering this is Shell’s Noble Bully 17 operating in the Gulf of Mexico.


This is somewhat different from conventional drill ships in that it is slightly shorter and narrower than most comparable ships. In place of the usual open-derrick style towers common to most drill ships, it has a single white tower in which two hoists are contained – one for drilling and another to create the drill pipes extending down from the ship and into the Earth. Although slightly smaller than comparable ships, it has greater thrust and can drill depths of up to 8,250 feet and, with a few safety upgrades, can operate at 12,000 feet. The drill can dig 40,000 feet into the Earth’s crust. This new type of drill ship comes with the latest digital technology including data imaging and predictive analysis, that can map oil and gas reserves locked deep within the crust in tight rock formations, which would previously have been invisible. Ships such as this are allowing major oil producers to drill faster, cheaper and more safely than conventional models and are key to unlocking hard-to-reach oil in a cost effective manner.

The Problem of Positioning Maintaining positioning is a major challenge for vessels in deep water. While FPSOs operating in shallower waters can deploy jack-ups to maintain position, this is not feasible in deeper areas. There are several anchoring methods which use numerous lines to connect the ship to the ocean floor. However, poor quality equipment is a major safety issue. Drilling risers are flexible enough to accept a certain amount of movement but it doesn’t take much to cause damage, downtime for repair and, in extreme cases, to cause leaks into the ocean. The latest solution is known as dynamic positioning technology. Deploying various thrusters positioned all around the ship it is

possible to move it in any direction, using computerized software to react against shifts in the ocean. For added security, many ships will deploy a mix of mooring and dynamic positioning methods to hold their location. When you extend into arctic waters the challenges multiply. Here the issue is not necessarily deep water, but cold and ice. To meet these challenges, a new generation of ice breaking oil tankers is taking to the seas, such as the 70,000 ton Mikhail Ulyanov, one of Russia’s new generation of ice protected oil tankers. This 260 meter long ship is capable of breaking through 1.2 meters of ice, while maintaining a speed of three knots. However, these need to do much more than just break the ice. Exploration at the arctic is a commercially marginal proposition at best, which is why transition speed is so important8. To increase speed therefore, double action icebreakers provide the ability to move forward through the ice, track back in reverse and to operate better in open ocean environments than traditional ice breakers. Add to this emissions regulations and the delicate issue of exploration in the Arctic and you have a need for considerable development to produce more robust, cleaner running and efficient vessels.

Exploring the Extremes Deep water represents the final frontier of offshore oil and gas – it is the future and the great hope for reinvigorating supplies for the next few decades. The challenges it presents are unlike anything conventional drilling operations have ever faced before, which require a significant step forward in the industry’s design and technological capabilities. At its most basic, this heralds the age of larger, more robust and, above all, more sophisticated vessels.



Vessels of the Future Tom Cropper, Editor The oil and gas industry is busy developing the oil vessels of the future. This article will look at a number of projects which could shape what these look like.

The oil tanker of the future will have to transport large loads, brave rough seas, survive extreme temperatures and conditions, so the one thing it needs to be before anything else is big


O FAR in this report we have looked at the commercial, technological and practical challenges facing oil and gas companies, and the innovations being developed to meet them. In this final article, we look towards what the next few decades hold in store and how the vessels of the future might look. Around the world, the biggest players in oil and gas are investing substantial sums into research, concept projects and new vessels. These face many challenges: to open up inaccessible and uneconomic sources, discover new oil, enhance safety, speed and efficiency of operations and to do all this in a way which minimizes the impact on the environment.

Age of the Giants The oil tanker of the future will have to transport large loads, brave rough seas, survive extreme temperatures and conditions, so the one thing it needs to be before anything else is big. A glimpse at the future can be seen with Shell’s Prelude9, which is currently nearing completion in South Korea. This, claims Shell, is a potential game changer for the oil and gas industry – a monstrous tanker, the size of the Empire state building, half a kilometer in length and with enough space on board to fit four football fields. It is the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas plant and in 2017 it will travel out to Shell’s Prelude field 125 miles off the coast of Australia. Here it will produce natural gas, cool it to -162 oC, condense it to a liquid 600 times more compact than gas, before offloading onto tankers to be shipped. It is, says Shell, a step change which could revolutionize the industry. “This is a revolutionary technology developed by Shell,” says Neil Gilmour, Shell VP of Integrated Gas Development. “It has the potential to change the way we produce natural gas.” There are already almost 50 natural gas plants around the world, but this is the first of what Shell hopes to be a series of FLNG


plants which will take this process offshore. In doing so they enable Shell to transport gas over large distances, which would have been uneconomic, or just plain impossible, with pipelines. Reducing onshore processing eliminates cost and environmental impact. Although there was considerable controversy in Australia about the loss of onshore construction jobs due to the move offshore, the simple truth is that Shell believes that, without this approach, it would have been impossible to tap this field at all.

Fuel of the Future The increased use of vessels to extract oil and gas far from the shore comes at the same time as pressure is growing around the world to reduce emissions. Numerous countries have adopted low emission regulations in recent years, while the fluctuating price of fuel means running costs represent a significant obstacle. For the new generation of vessels, therefore, the way in which they are propelled will be a major consideration. For decades, diesel has been the standard fuel for propulsion. It’s reliable and, well understood and plentiful expertise exists to maintain systems. However, it is becoming more expensive, and it gives off toxic CO2, NOX and SOX. In the future, therefore, there is a compelling case for cleaner, more efficient and ultimately more affordable alternatives. Among those ideas mentioned are hydrogen fuel cells, biofuels, renewables and nuclear power. All have their potential benefits, but considerable research and development is required for these to be considered practical. A more immediate short term solution could come in the form of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). It is potentially cheaper than conventional fuels and, although not emission free, it does substantially reduce CO2 as well as Nitrogen and Sulphur oxides. In 2011, DNV launched a new concept study for an LNG powered vessel named Triality10. It uses two high pressure LNG fuelled engines with marine gas as the pilot fuel to produce a


ship that is cleaner, cheaper and more efficient than conventional models. Speaking about the project, DNV CEO Henrik O Madsen said: “I am convinced that gas will become the dominant fuel for merchant ships. By 2020, the majority of owners will order ships that can operate on liquefied natural gas. As a leading class society DNV, has an important role to play in finding more environmentally friendly industry.” The stats are certainly impressive. SOX, down by as much as 95%; NOX down by 80%; a 34% reduction in CO2 emissions and 25% less energy. A V-shaped hull design and cargo tank arrangement, meanwhile, considerably reduces the need for ballast water. This is important as ballast water taken on board in one port and discharged into another in a distant part of the world can upset local habitats by introducing new species into the environments. The concept was designed by DNV to show ship builders what can be achieved. They themselves will have to come up with the designs and applications before the first one

can be constructed, but it is a feasible signpost for the future.

Going Down In signposting that future, though, it is impossible to ignore where oil production might take place. According to many, the future may lie beneath the ocean. They envisage a world of sub-sea cities in which the equipment currently located on FPSOs or floating rigs is taken down and fixed to the sea bed. Achieving this will require infrastructure such as submersibles capable of monitoring operations, floating electricity grids to supply power, and support vessels to recover equipment or carry out maintenance. It’s a very different world, and one which, without the expense of floating oil and gas rigs, could ensure the future profitability of the oil and gas industry for years to come. The oil and gas industry, therefore, is entering a new and exciting age. Uncertainty may persist about the feasibility of much of the world’s future potential oil supply, but what is undeniable is that shipping will play an important part.



References: Overview of the offshore supply vessel:



Skills shortage in a booming market:


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Penalty casts further doubt over Shell’s Arctic future:


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Shell’s Prelude:


Big Oil’s data push changing the future of energy:


New Ice breaking oil tanker for Russian Arctic:


Shell Prelude:


Triality, oil tanker of the future:


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