The 22,000-tonne topside for the drilling platform was lifted into position in one single lift on the Johan Sverdrup field over the weekend using the engineering marvel Pioneering Spirit.
The installation marks the first time the record-setting heavy lift vessel has been used for single-lift topside installation.
Last Thursday, May 31, the topside for the Johan Sverdrup drilling platform sailed from the Aibel yard in Haugesund to Bømlafjorden at Stord. There, the steel structure was transferred from the barge to Pioneering Spirit, the world’s biggest heavy-lift vessel, before making the eleven-hour journey to the Johan Sverdrup field.
After initial preparations, the installation took only three hours. “This makes it likely the fastest ever installation of a large, fully completed topside,” said Equinor, the Norwegian energy company formerly known as Statoil, operator of the Johan Sverdrup field.
The installation of the drilling platform marks the second of four platforms in the first development phase of Johan Sverdrup.
“This is an important milestone in the Johan Sverdrup installation campaign. Two of the four Johan Sverdrup platforms are now in place. The power cables to the field were rolled out last week, and so far, the installation of Norway’s biggest oil pipeline has gone very well, so this is definitely moving in the right direction,” says Trond Bokn, senior vice president for Johan Sverdrup at Equinor.
“At the same time, much work remains, and we must maintain extra focus on safety and quality in the execution phase. But we can breathe a bit more easily now that the drilling platform is installed – this is the first ever such operation in the world,” Bokn adds.
Ståle Hanssen, project manager for Johan Sverdrup jackets, installation and commissioning, describes the technology enabling single-lift installation of big platforms as a game changer for the industry.
Up until now, no crane vessels have been able to lift more than 12,000 tonnes in one lift, but new lifting technology on Allseas‘ Pioneering Spirit allows entire topsides of up to 48,000 tonnes to be lifted in one, single lift. The technology was initially developed for the removal of decommissioned platforms, like when Pioneering Spirit set the new world lifting record with the successful removal of Shell’s 24,000 tonne Brent Delta platform in the North Sea.
Equinor is now the first user of the Pioneering Spirit for installation. “This allows for great savings in the construction and installation phases, both in terms of manhours and costs, and, not least, reduces risks related to health, environment and safety,” Equinor states.
“Equinor and the Johan Sverdrup partnership, working closely with Allseas, make a break-through for the industry here. The safety-, schedule- and cost-related benefits are substantial, and we expect that many others will follow suit,” says Hanssen.
“At the same time making the Johan Sverdrup planning puzzle so dependent on a vessel that was in fact at the time not even fully completed was no easy decision. We of course spent much time with the Johan Sverdrup partnership before coming to this conclusion,” he says.
Pioneering Spirit will return to the Johan Sverdrup field in the spring of 2019, to install the two last topside structures in the first phase of the development, for the processing platform and the utility and accommodation platform.
“We look forward to putting the drilling platform on stream, and completing the pre-drilled wells towards the end of the year and next year, preparing for first oil in late 2019,” says Stig Åtland, head of drilling and well for Johan Sverdrup.
With expected recoverable resources of between 2.1 and 3.1 billion barrels of oil equivalent, Johan Sverdrup is one of the five biggest oil fields on the Norwegian continental shelf and one of the most important industrial projects in Norway over the next 50 years.
The field will be developed in several phases, with Phase 1 expected to start up in late 2019 with production capacity estimated at 440,000 barrels of oil per day.