Pioneering Spirit Sets New Offshore Lifting Record at Johan Sverdrup

Pioneering Spirit world record
Photo: Equinor

A new offshore lifting world record has been set with the installation of the final topsides in first phase of the Johan Sverdrup field development project in the North Sea.

The final two platform topsides were installed using none other than the heavy lift vessel Pioneering Spirit, which installed the topsides utilizing the vessel’s unique single-lift capability.

The installation of the nearly 26,000-metric-ton processing platform set a new record as the heaviest lift ever complete offshore. The record-setting lift was carried out on Tuesday morning in only four hours with a clearance of just 25 meters from other installations at the field center.

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The lifting of the utility and living quarters topside, at 18,000 tonnes, was completed early Friday morning in just 3.5 hours. The entire operation, from lifting the processing platform to releasing the lifting quarters, took less than 72 hours to complete.

At the same time, the heavy lift vessel Thialf was busy installing the final flare stack and the bridge that links the processing platform to the drilling platform. The final bridge connecting the utility and living quarters topside to the rest of the field centre will be installed next.

Below is a video of the operation: 

“We have completed the heaviest lift ever performed offshore. Over the course of just three days, we have lifted almost 47,000 tonnes into place. And the whole process was completed safely and efficiently, without harm to people or the environment,” says Ståle Hanssen, responsible for engineering, installation and commissioning in the Johan Sverdrup project. 

“This was all made possible by in-depth planning and, not least, a high level of precision in execution in collaboration with our suppliers and partners,” says Hanssen.

Johan Sverdrup is one of the five largest oil fields on the Norwegian continental shelf. With expected resources of between 2.1 and 3.1 billion barrels of oil equivalents, it is also one of Norway biggest industrial projects in the next 50 years, with revenues of more than NOK 900 billion expected over its life. Located in 110-120 meters of water approximately 160 kilometers west of Stavanger, the field will be connected to onshore electrical power helping reducing offshore emissions by as much as 90%. 

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Phase 1 consists of a field center comprising individual units linked by bridges, including an accommodation platform, a process platform, a drilling platform and a riser platform. The installation started with the jacket for the riser platform in August 2017, followed by additional three steel jackets, four topsides, two bridges, two flare stacks, 200 km of power cables, and more than 400 km of pipelines. Pioneering Spirit was contracted to install all four of the main units, plus an additional unit to come during phase 2.

Production start for phase 1 is planned for late 2019 with daily production estimated at 440,000 barrels per day. Start-up of phase 2 is estimated in Q4 2022, which will help peak production to 660,000 barrels daily.

Partners in the project include owner and operator Equinor, with partners Lundin Norway, Petoro, Aker BP and Total.

“We are proud of what the Johan Sverdrup project has accomplished together with our partners and suppliers. At the same time, we’re not finished just yet. A lot of work remains, but with the installation campaign completed, we are on track to start production in November,” says Bokn.

The installation of the 26,000 tonne processing platform beats the previous offshore lifting world record set by Pioneering Spirit in 2017 when it lifted the 24,000 tonne Brent Delta platform during its decommissioning in the North Sea.

At 382 meters long and 124 meters wide, the purpose-built Pioneering Spirit is the largest offshore construction ship ever built, with a unique catamaran-like design that allows it lift platforms weighing up to 48,000 tonnes. This single lift method is considered a major departure from traditional installation and decommissioning, where topsides are taken apart piece by piece.

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