CCB and FMC Kongsberg build Dockside Test Well

Published Dec 12, 2003
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Unique Testing Facility

Coast Center Base and FMC Kongsberg Subsea have joined together to build a unique test facility on the CCB premises at Ågotnes, northwest of Bergen. They have deployed a full-scale sub sea test well right by the shore, at CCB’s deepwater quay, offering all the facilities of an offshore sub sea well with the convenience of onshore well management.

After 30 years of servicing the major oil and gas fields in the North Sea, Coast Center Base (CCB) is firmly established as a leading center for innovation and a major link in the supply chain for the offshore industry. Now they are at the forefront of industry development once again, with a new, unique quayside test well.

CCB prides itself in being a major quality player in its field. It is a supply base offering harbour services, technical services, logistics, cargo handling and transport, chemical cleaning and general sub sea support service. In addition, the base boasts a host of qualified personnel, in logistics and office administration as well as all supply-side functions. They perform inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) of drilling rigs. But right now, it’s their deepwater quay, with water depth down to 50 meters, which draws the most attention.

A Unique Facility
Norway’s first dockside deep-sea test well is located just off the deepwater quay at CCB’s facilities at Ågotnes outside of Bergen. It’s a joint effort by CCB, who owns the well, and FMC Kongsberg, who designed and built it. FMC share part ownership in the well through the equipment they have stacked in it. The well has been drilled 25 meters down from the sea floor and offers all the facilities of a sub sea test well normally found offshore.

Kurt Andreassen, Managing Director of CCB, is rightfully proud: “This is a unique facility, particularly because of the great cost reductions it offers,” he says. “Traditional sub sea testing of drilling equipment is a very expensive endeavour. By having the facilities right here at our deepwater quay, we can lower testing costs dramatically.”

The well itself is a full-scale sub sea well. At a depth of 50 meters, extending 25 meters down into the seabed, it offers complete simulation of the temperatures and pressures of most well environments. It sports a foundation frame that can accommodate a majority of existing drilling systems, making it attractive to many operators.

“This means that almost any operator can install their equipment in our well,” says Andreassen. Within this frame, the engineers at FMC Kongsberg have designed a complete well system, with a full-size wellhead running into a 26-metre casing.

The test well can be outfitted with a full range of sub sea equipment. Assembly is made convenient by the presence of crane assistance from the CCB quay. The crane is used to load and unload well equipment – allowing the operator to outfit the well with any combination of sub sea processing equipment he desires. Furthermore, the whole arrangement is located within CCB’s facilities at Ågotnes, allowing the well operators to stack the wellhead, literally, straight from the back of the truck. The first test operation is conducted by FMC Kongsberg Subsea, testing their new Riserless well intervention system (RLWI).

FMC Kongsberg Subsea has a history of delivering cutting edge technology to the offshore industry. They are among the industry leaders in developing and implementing a complete range of sub sea production, processing, control, and management systems. As such, FMC were the perfect match for CCB in this joint venture.

And Kurt Andreassen sees the well as a prime example of excellent customer/supplier collaboration.

“FMC Kongsberg came to us with the concept,” he says. “They wanted to be able to conduct systems and equipment testing in a realistic environment, without the usual intervention ships needed for offshore testing. We had the perfect facilities for a quayside sub sea test well. So we joined forces, and the result is a unique test facility.” CCB is betting that a state of the art, low cost, safe, and accessible test well will attract many customers.

Cheaper, but Better
The well promises all the facilities of a modern offshore sub sea well, with significantly lower cost. “Our solution is unique in that way,” says Andreassen. “We can do everything you can do at a traditional offshore test facility right here, but at a much lower cost.”

The potential for cost reduction is obvious: No sea transportation is needed to get to the well; all maintenance can be performed from the shore; and less people are needed to perform the necessary operations. In addition, the increased safety associated with running a well from the shore significantly decreases costs associated with securing personnel and equipment, and lowers health costs and insurance payments that would be triggered by accidents. These are attractive prospects to a cost-conscious industry.

The oil and gas industry has always sported a mind-set characterized by a curious combination of innovation and conservative thinking. The adventurous spirit of technological advancement has always been mixed with a very strong focus on security issues – a totally unsurprising stance in an environment of electronics and heavy machinery, often located several miles offshore. This emphasis on safety makes an ideal backdrop for CCB’s new well.

Growing Demand
Andreassen foresees a growing demand for accessible, safe test environments. “There is a clear tendency towards increasingly strict regulations – particularly more rigid test requirements,” he says.

“This is something that is happening worldwide.” Extensive environmental regulations and safety requirements prescribe that the equipment must be subject to extensive testing before installation offshore. The regulations pertain to security issues as well as environmental concerns, under the increasingly watchful eye of governments, environmental groups, and industry organizations.

“Quayside testing offers many advantages,” Andreassen says. “Since the whole process is managed from the shore, you achieve significantly increased control over the operation. Intervention can happen much faster than in an offshore environment.”

In addition, Andreassen states, there are many benefits for the personnel involved. “The level of exposure is much lower than on an offshore installation. The CCB test well offers a safe location for sub sea testing, with none of the hazards associated with traveling between installations and working offshore.”

The well is also ideally suited for education and professional training in many areas. The test well can serve as a qualification facility for sub sea and ROV activities, as well as drilling, installation, systems management, and well-related subjects.

A Major Hub
The base at Ågotnes has a history that runs parallel to Norway’s rise as a nation built on oil revenue. CCB has supplied many of the most important production fields in the North Sea.

“Many of the biggest oil finds in the North Sea were supplied from CCB, “ says Andreassen. Among them are Statfjord, Gullfaks, Veslefrikk, Troll A, Huldra, and Kvitebjørn – some of the richest and most profitable fields in the area, and in Norwegian oil history.

Ågotnes is an idyllic small town on the island of Sotra just west of Bergen, located near the seaward approach to the city. It has a reputation as a wind surfing hotspot on the west coast, and the area is beautiful, with a multitude of islands and good fishing opportunities for the leisure-minded. In addition to the outdoor life, it serves as a major base for Norway’s energy industry, with over 120 energy-related companies located in the area. They help create an environment of innovation and know-how. 60 of these companies are located on the CCB grounds.

CCB offers a full service harbour terminal, with a modern Ro-Ro ramp, and the facilities and capacity to handle Norwegian coastal and overseas transport. The on-base Property Department offers rental of 60 000 m² of offices, warehouses and workshops and 250 000 m² of outdoor storage area. The broad range of services and facilities make them a natural choice for rig-owners and oil companies. Every year, more than 2000 ships dock at CCB. A combination of experience and an extensive network of customers and suppliers has established CCB and the Ågotnes industrial area as the major hub in Western Norway for service and supplies to the oil and gas industry in the North Sea.

The Future: LNG
With a look to the future needs of the Bergen area, they have recently entered into a long-term cooperation agreement with the city of Bergen, to act as a relief port for the busy harbour.

“The idea is to divert some of the heavy industrial traffic away from the city harbour, “ Andreassen explains. ”We have the facilities and the expertise to handle that traffic.” Those facilities have been developed over a long thirty years in the industry.

Now, CCB are looking to the future, with their plans to launch the world’s first LNG fuel station. “We are doing this in cooperation with Naturgass Vest,” says Andreassen. “We will establish an LNG tank and supply lines, for the ships that dock at our base.”

Liquefied Natural Gas is an environmentally friendly fuel that is also cost-efficient, and Andreassen sees this as an important way for CCB to further solidify their reputation as the most comprehensive supply base in Western Norway. “This is a very important area,” he says. “LNG promises to be an important alternative to diesel, and we are happy to be first to offer this service to the offshore industry.”

The LNG initiative comes after Statoil announced the launch of two LNG-fueled supply ships. They were contracted from the ship owners Møkster Shipping and Eidesvik, who have collaborated on the ships’ construction, and are set for operation this year. The ships will be operated from CCB, and will be supplying oil and gas installations in the Tampen area of the North Sea. These are the first of what may grow into an entire fleet of ships running on natural gas. If so, CCB have found yet another source of revenue, and the addition of LNG-fueling bolsters their already comprehensive range of services.

Andreassen emphasizes the great environmental advantage of using natural gas instead of oil-based fuels. “Liquefied Natural Gas contains no sulphates, “ he says. “And the reduction in greenhouse gases is huge; NOx – nitrous oxides – are reduced by 85 percent. Compared to diesel, CO2 emissions are reduced by 20 to 30 percent.”

These are significant reductions, and they can contribute greatly to the obligations to which the Norwegian government has committed itself through the Gothenburg Protocol. Under the agreement, Norway must cut NOx emissions by 32 percent by 2010. The Norwegian government sees the LNG station as a welcome contribution to national emissions reduction. CCB hope that it will attract more customers from the offshore sector to use their base and services.

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