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James Burgess

James Burgess

James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…

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Ship Inspired by Sucker Fish Hopes to Revolutionize the Offshore Oil Industry

More and more remote offshore oil fields are being developed as new technologies allow oil companies to extract from ever deeper, more inaccessible locations.

The Brazilian offshore fields, being developed by the state-owned oil company Petrobras, are leading the boom in these ever deeper wells.

Many deepwater wells are now too deep and too remote to use conventional platforms and pipelines to deliver pumped oil to onshore facilities. Instead Floating Production, Storage, and Offloading (FPSO) vessels are becoming more common, allowing much of the processing of the oil to be carried out at sea. Reuters claims that there are around 150 FPSOs in operation around the world, and that of the 48 vessels currently under construction, 21 are destined for Petrobras, for use in the fields off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

A new vessel is now on its way to Brazil, hoping to revolutionise the methods for loading tankers at remote offshore locations. Inspired by the sucker fish, and known as the HiLoad DP (Dynamic Positioning) unit No.1, the vessel was designed and developed in Norway by oil services company Remora. It has been leased on a 10 year commercial trial contract by Petrobras for use in the Campos and Espirito Santo pre-salt basins.

Related article: Junior Time in the Gulf of Mexico Shelf

The HiLoad DP unit No.1
The HiLoad DP unit No.1 (gCaptain)

At 47 metres tall, just 28 metres long, and with an 11 metre keel, the unit is not exactly the sleekest thing on the water, resembling more a partly submerged crane, than a ship.

The HiLoad DP unit is based on the Remora, a sucker fish that attaches itself to larger species, often sharks, via a sucker formed on the mutated dorsal fin behind its head. The Remora fish attaches to the underside of other species and feeds off parasites and leftovers.

The HiLoad DP attaches to larger oil tankers via a sucker positioned below the water line, and several others that attach to the vessel higher up on the hull. Once attached the unit controls the positioning of the tanker via three powerful Dynamic Positioning thruster engines that keep the tanker steady (any size up to a Suezmax class) and a safe distance from the FPSO. A hose can then link from the FPSO and fill the tanker with crude oil, without the need for any extra specialised equipment, offering great savings in cost.

HiLoad DP unit attached to a tanker
HiLoad DP unit attached to a tanker. (Trelleborg)

Related article: Hooking up the Grid: Power Ships and Floating Nuclear Plants

Yngve Kloster, the project manager for delivering the HiLoad DP unit No.1to Petrobras, stated that “Brazil will have to export a lot of its oil - so direct loading onto normal tankers instead of reloading from shuttle tankers will create considerable savings.

We also see it as an alternative in (offshore) Africa where they use offloading buoys you can approach with a normal tanker, but where you will need a tug to assist as well.”

Remora has just signed a contract with BG Brasil to study its second generation Highload DP unit design, which features increased engine power and the ability to manoeuvre larger tankers.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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