Cat B well intervention Rig aker solutions

Cat B Well Intervention Rig, image: Aker Solutions

Statoil announced today that they have awarded Aker Solutions a $1.9 billion contract involving a new type of rig, categorized “Cat-B”, destined to provide enhanced well intervention and light drilling capability year round on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

According to Aker Solutions:

“The Cat-B rig is a semi-submersible unit designed for year-round well intervention. It will provide a full range of heavy well intervention and light drilling tasks including through-tubing rotary drilling, wireline, coil tubing, high pressure pumping, well testing and cementing services as well as ROV operations. It will operate in water depths up to 500 metres.”

Statoil noted in their press release that it’s “an entirely new type of rig,” however Helix ESG’s Q4000, which I visited last week, is a Category B well intervention rig and was built in 2002.  To be fair however, this new rig (like the one on currently on order by Helix ESG) will certainly be far more capable than the Q4000, and will feature a number of upgrades to allow it to operate effectively year round in the harsh environment on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

skandi aker

Image: Aker Solutions

The Skandi Aker, the Aker Solutions-owned well intervention vessel pictured above, is an extremely capable subsea well intervention vessel, however due to it’s ship-shaped design, it’s operations are still somewhat limited due to deck space, and most critically, vessel motions.

The new CAT-B rig. as a semi-submersible, provides a harsh environment solution to both issues.

The mission of this rig…

The key to maintaining the current production level on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) is increased recovery from existing fields, along with the development of new fields.  Increasing drilling activity on mature fields is important in order to achieve the NCS’ full potential.

“This will be a very important part of the toolbox for increased recovery on the Norwegian continental shelf, making it possible to produce oil and gas that otherwise would be lost,” says Statoil executive vice president of Technology, Projects and Drilling, Margareth Øvrum. “The category B rig is the result of long-term, targeted technology development to increase subsea well recovery rates.”

Ivar Aasheim, Statoil’s Senior Vice President of Field Development continues:

“New and improved well service methods provide a substantial contribution to increased recovery on the NCS. Statoil currently operates around 500 subsea wells, and we need efficient tools to maintain these. Collaboration between many licences has been a precondition for establishing a long-term work programme. We therefore thank our licence partners for enabling us to realise the category B service together.”

Statoil and the licensees will enter into an eight-year contract with options for three times two years for the category B service. The estimated value of the contract is USD 1.9 billion. In addition to rig rental, the contract also includes rental of the necessary equipment and services to carry out well intervention, sidetrack drilling, ROV operations, well testing and cementing.

Why not use a semi-submersible (CAT-C) drilling rig for these operations?

Semi-submersible drilling rigs are certainly capable of well intervention operations, however day rates for these vessels are at a premium and very few are available.  Cat-B well intervention rigs, such as Helix ESG’s Q4000, have the proven ability to commence operations in far less time than it would take for a semi-submersible drilling rig to set up for well intervention. Additionally, on the NCS, there is no alternative service available for performing coiled tubing and through tubing drilling in subsea wells efficiently.

The rig will be in service during 2015.

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