Environmental Technology, News, Oil & Gas

Deepwater’s “golden triangle”

The Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and west Africa form what some have called a “Deepwater Golden Triangle”; three areas rich in energy potential and rife with challenges that call for high-tech solutions. Norway’s long experience with exploration, service and technology...

While the true extent of reserves in the triangle is still unknown, the industry as a whole is very optimistic, and serious investment is flowing to each area. The Norwegian oil and gas cluster’s special expertise in harsh and difficult conditions, honed on the Norwegian continental shelf, is finding dynamic new applications in all three regions.


The beat of the samba, endless golden beaches, and…sophisticated oil recovery technology? That last item may seem a strange association to make with Brazil, but it reflects a growing reality. The South American nation has emerged as one of the world’s largest offshore markets, and Norwegian companies are capitalizing on the growth – finding increasing opportunities in the deepwater fields off the Brazilian coast.

In 2006, Hydro acquired development interest in the Peregrino field, a major heavy-oil zone located some 85 km southeast of Rio de Janeiro. Deepwater recovery techniques proven in similar conditions on the Norwegian continental shelf, such as horizontal well drilling, will be put to use on the field.

By adding Peregrino to Hydro’s Chinook field developments, it’s clear that the Oslo-based firm is bullish on Brazil’s energy future. “The acquisition of Peregrino makes Hydro a major player on the Brazilian continental shelf. We have now established an excellent platform for further growth in an area with large oil and gas resources,” wrote Tore Torvund on the company’s website.

Statoil is well-entrenched in this market as well, with involvement in seven blocks, including three where it serves as operator. Holdings for the company include zones in the Camamu, Campos, Espirito Santa and Jequitnhonha basins.

Norwegian deepwater innovations, like Sevan Marine’s drilling platforms (an illustration of the next-generation Deepsea Driller is shown here), are finding a growing market share in Brazil, west Africa and the Gulf of Mexico.  
© Sevan Marine

Transferring Experience & Know-How 

Norwegian recovery expertise and technology is finding an increasing share in the Brazilian oil and energy sector. Aker Kværner is hard at work in the region, having recently won a contract from Petrobras to supply up to 30 Xmas trees – an order worth some $84 million. And FMC Kongsberg will also supply the Brazilian national company Petrobras with advanced subsea trees designed for water depth of 2,000 metres.

Vetco Gray has a long history in Brazil. The firm has been providing advanced subsea wellheads and tree systems in the country for more than 30 years. The offshore Brazil sector counts over 1,000 subsea wellheads and 180 subsea trees produced and installed by the firm, whose Norwegian offices are in Billingstad near Oslo.

Despite these successes, new companies find it’s not as relaxing as a stroll on the beach doing business in Brazil. The country’s notorious red tape and logistical challenges can be a major obstacle. That’s why N-BIO – the Norwegian Business Incubator Offices initiative – was formed by Innovation Norway and INTSOK (Norwegian Oil and Gas Partners). The agencies saw a pressing need to help overcome the difficulty of establishing and running a business in the country. N-BIO will serve as a centre for Norwegian firms new to Brazil, designed to help with market entry, business development, support and, perhaps most importantly, access to a well-established business network. The centre is slated to open in January 2007.

Gulf of Mexico

One of the largest markets for the Norwegian petroleum cluster, the Gulf of Mexico is attracting a high level of global interest for its promising deepwater reserves. Approximately $75 billion will be invested in the region over the next three years.

One of the most active and ambitious Norwegian firms in the area is Statoil, which recently purchased 25 percent of Knotty Head, 27.5 percent of Bog Foot and 27.5 percent of the Big Foot North fields. “Our ambition is that we shall produce around 100,000 barrels per day from this area after 2012,” the firm’s Rannveig S. Stangeland told Norwegian wire service NTB.

Gotta Have Faith in High-Tech

Aker Kværner is one of quite a few Norwegian firms who are pioneering deepwater recovery techniques to access the tremendous potential of the Gulf. “We consider the Gulf of Mexico to be the most competitive deepwater market in the world and of strategic importance to Aker Kværner,” said CEO Inge Hansen on the company’s website.

A major breakthrough for the company in gaining a foothold in the Gulf was winning a $120 million contract to create a semi-submersible platform for Chevron’s Blind Faith development in the Mississippi Canyon zone.

The Blind Faith DDS, under construction in Verdal, will be the first application of Aker’s deep draft submersible design. This is a new approach that promises to create increased stability against dynamic wave pressure, and enhanced ballast and moorings will help ensure the platform’s survival in the roughest weather. Weighing in at 7,770 tonnes, the Blind Faith DDS will be supported by four 45-metre-high square columns that will carry 8,700 tonnes of topsides. The platform will be moored in 1,980 metres of water.

The company also holds contracts for subsea pump stations to be used at the King field. These are also breaking new ground, as they include the capability to operate more than 29 kilometres from the platform. In addition, Aker Kvaerner recently won a $10 million contract for an advanced umbilical system for the deepwater Q field project in the Gulf. This “innovative design specifically addresses the challenges of water depth and dynamic application,” Hydro’s Pete Stracke told scandoil.com about the Aker Kvaerner umbilical system.

Norwegian expertise from Bergesen Worldwide Offshore (BW Offshore) – the company’s Berge Helene FPSO is pictured here – has been instrumental in developing Chinquetti, Mauritania’s first oilfield. 
© BW Offshore

Major Players Seeking Major Resources

Hydro will be using cutting-edge technology to increase recovery on its growing number of high potential interests in the Gulf. Since the company’s acquisition of Spinnaker Exploration in 2005, Hydro has become a major player in the area. During the Gulf of Mexico’s 198th licensing round, for example, the firm was awarded 14 new blocks, ten of them as operator.
Another innovative Norwegian company active in the Gulf is Sevan Marine, which has had success with its Sevan Driller Platform. The unit, based on the company’s circular platform hull design, is engineered to provide drilling capacity down to 12,195 metres, operation at depths of 3,810 metres, deckload up to 15,000 tonnes and storage for up to 150,000 barrels of oil.

West Africa

Completing the triangle is west Africa, a growing sector that is expanding as new countries such as Mauritania join known producers Angola and Nigeria. The region as a whole currently contributes more than 10 million barrels per day to world supply, and analysts see a great deal of potential in west Africa’s deepwater and ultra-deepwater areas.

Norwegian experts from Bergesen, Vetco Gray and FMC Kongsberg have all made major contributions to Chinquetti, Mauritania’s first oilfield, which came online in February 2006.

Nigeria is expanding, with plans to increase production to 4 million barrels per day by 2010 and begin LNG operations. FMC is also active here, having recently been awarded the Agbami subsea contract.

The most established oil and gas sector in the region belongs to Angola. The nation’s oil production is expected to double over the next five years. Hydro is one of the major players in this nation, involved in developing the Gimboa prospects in block 4.

Rosa to Come Onstream Soon

One of Angola’s most promising areas, the Rosa field, is located in offshore Angola block 17, in depths ranging from approximately 1,300 to 1,500 metres and is about 15 kilometres from the Girassol Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) system to which the development will be tied back.

FMC Kongsberg says that when the field comes onstream in 2007, it will raise and prolong the peak production of the FPSO. In addition, FMC will add six new modules (5,300 tonnes) to upgrade the existing installations. The firm also supplied the subsea production systems for Total’s Girassol FPSO project.

More Deep Promise in Angola

Statoil has registered a new oil find in Angola as of October 2006. The discovery was made in deepwater block 31 off the Angolan coast, according to BP and Angola’s national oil company, Sonangol. Statoil owns a 13.33% interest in the block. The discovery, named Titania, is typical of the deepwater character of the area. Drilled by the Jack Ryan drill ship, total depth on the find measured over 5,000 metres, with a water depth of nearly 2,100 metres.

Angola hopes the sea will bring both tourists to its coasts and provide energy from promising fields such as Rosa, which will come onstream in 2007.  
© Hydro