Environmental Technology, News, Oil & Gas

Gaining the Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico has developed rapidly into a base for oil companies and suppliers with Norwegian head offices. The growth coincides with exploration and development in ever deeper water, which is all the better for Norway’s North Sea veterans....

The Gulf of Mexico has developed rapidly into a base for oil companies and suppliers with Norwegian head offices. The growth coincides with exploration and development in ever deeper water, which is all the better for Norway’s North Sea veterans. From Aker Kværner to Vetco Aibel, a full range of the country’s oilfield aces are taking their technology and experience into the Americas. Brazil, a deepwater proving ground, is not too distant, and national champions Hydro and Statoil are recently installed in Houston. With their full range of subsea, deepwater and LNG (liquefied natural gas) products and services, Norwegian suppliers await better business.

Having forged US business links into partnerships, Norwegian companies are showing the US Gulf States just what inward investment can achieve. Companies like supplier-contractor Kvaerner Oilfield Products (KOP) are erecting workplaces to build the latest innovations, and creating American jobs in the process. Others are fresh from North Sea trials and into their first deepwater contracts for technology evolved and proven at home in Norway. Many selected US business leaders to strengthen their ranks and leverage local knowledge, while tapping 30-year-old industry connections between Houston and Stavanger, the latter still a Norwegian oil capital.

Houston Heavyweights
When Norwegian oil company Statoil bought the deepwater Gulf portfolio of Calgary-based EnCana in the summer of 2005, the signal to Norwegian oilfield technologists was: time to leave home. Norwegian equipment and know-how commonly leaves the safe harbours of home for foreign oilfields by following satisfied oil company clients out into the world. The repeat business, even in lower-cost countries, is the best endorsement.

Now, Hydro and Statoil are resident in Texas. Statoil will be looking for new technology to unlock the 500 million net barrels of oil equivalent recently purchased in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM).

“We have the skills, experience and technologies that will contribute to the efficient development of these complex deepwater projects,” Statoil CEO Helge Lund said after the buy-up of EnCana assets. He wasn’t kidding. Norwegian technology companies dominated the 2005 Houston technology awards, picking up three of the prestigious “Spotlight on New Technology Awards.” Lund was probably making reference to Statoil’s own, formidable arsenal of high-tech, and to the many Statoil spin-off companies.

Torp Technologies’ HiLoad LNG Regas technology will be part of a regasifying docking station that will empty LNG cargoes some 80 kilometres off the coast of Alabama, at Dauphin Island.

Hydro Home Run
The prize for Statoil in the GoM is manifold: 25 percent in Chevron’s Tahiti development is key, and a start-up for first oil flows in 2008 will help finance the oil company’s stay in North America. The discoveries Jack, Fox, St Malo, Sturgis and Tonga also came from EnCana. Hydro, meanwhile, was producing 575,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day when, in October 2005, it tripled its license holdings in the US Gulf by buying for $2.56 billion the producing properties of Spinnaker Exploration. The veteran Norwegian energy company will try to grow its international production by 40 percent over three years. It will start by looking at the 176 exploration wells “spudded” by Spinnaker. The deal also comes with a stake in Anadarko Petroleum Corp.’s Independence Hub, a deep-draft, semi-submersible platform tied up to eight natural gas fields in the Atwater Valley, DeSoto Canyon and Lloyd Ridge areas of the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

LNG Beacons
It isn’t just Norwegian oil companies that have moved in on big GoM jobs. Norwegian suppliers have been summoned to some key economic bulwarks, while others are partners in pioneering projects.

As in the Barents, Norway’s LNG thinkers are at the heart of strategic projects. Advanced Production and Loading (APL) is providing Bergesen Worldwide Offshore with a Submerged Turret Production system (STP) for the PEMEX-operated KMZ field in the Gulf. Price tag: NOK 380 million. That’s a complete turret, mooring and swivel system for one of the largest floating production, storage and offloading ships in the world, at 600,000 barrels of capacity.

APL’s also behind the first offshore LNG project of client Excelerate Energy, the Gulf Gateway Energy Bridge Terminal, 116 miles off the Louisiana coast. The project is of national importance to the United States and appears to satisfy environmentalists and those concerned with security in build-up areas along the US Eastern Seaboard.

A rival Norwegian technology, the  HiLoad LNG Regas of Torp Technologies, is providing another offshore first for LNG in the United States. This time, a regasifying docking station will empty LNG cargoes some 80 kilometres off the coast of Alabama, at Dauphin Island. Two HiLoad LNG Regas stations will operate in parallel, and vital imports are expected in 2009. Similar plans are afoot for the Mexican sector. Torp Technologies is an offshoot of Remora Technology, which is yet another winner of a prestigious Houston technology award – the Woefel Distinguished Innovation Award issued at the Offshore Technology Conference in 2004.

Subsea, Deepwater
Like LNG remedies, subsea solutions have become a Norwegian specialty.

Vetco Gray is supplying two high-pressure (15,000 psi), high-temperature horizontal trees to Anadarko Petroleum Corp.’s Genghis Khan field, with 2006 as the start-up for a tieback to the Marco Polo platform. High pressure, high temperature is a trait of Norwegian Sea reservoirs. Aker Subsea, in a recent breakthrough with far-reaching implications for subsea developments everywhere, has secured NOK 220 million for the delivery of two seabed booster pumps to the BP-operated King field. Once installed, a record will be broken for deepwater pumping, at some 30 kilometres from the platform. Aker Subsea will engineer the designs, procure for them and build them. The “twin-screw” type and reserve multibooster will be built in Tranby, Norway. News of the process equipment’s success might be sweet music to Kerr-McGee and EnCana: both oil companies reported deepwater discoveries in Brazil near press time.

ClampOn products – shown here a sand monitor clamped onto FMC Technology’s process gear, and a DSP corrosion-erosion monitor – impact the increased recovery of reserves.
FMC Technology’s process gear, and a DSP corrosion-erosion monitor – impact the increased recovery of reserves.

Impacting Reserves
The sand monitors of Bergen-based Clamp-On are another example of designs impacting the increased recovery of reserves. ClampOn’s real-time system will let Chevron’s Tahiti project managers produce at maximum, knowing the gouging power of high-pressure sand in the wellstream is fully understood.

Such supplies of products, systems and services have made a name around the world, and the cavalcade continues:

At oil company BP’s Holstein platform, FMC Technologies’ multiphase meters enable the simultaneous measurement of oil, gas and liquids streaming from the reservoir. This type of metering traditionally required separating the three. The multiphase equipment also permits the real-time detection of water or gas in the wellstream.

A part of one of Norway’s largest industrial conglomerates, Aker Kvaerner Oilfield Products is a powerhouse of innovation. In Mobile, Alabama, the company’s plant is building deepwater composite tethers to let rigs and platforms ply the worst depths without toppling. ConocoPhillips and KOP together founded Deepwater Composites, which will also build lightweight risers. Aker Kvaerner Marine Contractors, meanwhile, employ an advanced vessel fleet for construction assignments in the Gulf and the deepest West African waters.

Favourite Market
The Gulf of Mexico, big in itself, has also provided the springboard for Norwegian supplier success in the neighbouring market of Brazil. Some companies visiting the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston were quick to point out the merits of their wares in equipment-crunching 3,000-metre working depths.

In a platform-dominated market like the GoM, northern Norwegian company Rapp Bomek’s fire- and blast-proof doors are big sellers. And Norwegian safety ideas continue to sell: classification society Det Norske Veritas (DNV) has become a certification force for management systems in the Brazilian markets, and now offers a programme to help bring older facilities up to date.

CorrOcean digital subsea sensors are attached to horizontal trees in the Green Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico. And the list goes on.

There is little doubt that the arrival of Hydro and Statoil in the Gulf of Mexico – and even the passing of Hurricane Katrina – will serve to up the count of Norwegian companies calling the Gulf of Mexico a core market.