Currently the search is still on for a 49 year old North Sea oil worker who has not been seen since 21.20 hours on Tuesday. Steve Sutherland was operating on the Noble Lloyd Noble installation, 90 miles miles east of Shetland.
There appears to be no suspicious circumstances and his disappearance is not linked to a workplace incident at this time. The larger scale search was scaled back on Wednesday and his next of kin have been paying tribute to the much loved Aberdeen man.
Det Insp Norman Stevenson, who is leading a team of officers flown out to the rig said: ‘An extensive search has been carried out which has involved a search and rescue helicopter as well as standby vessels and a platform supply vessel.’
The rig is a jack up drilling platform. Operations were halted while the search went on. I can only hope that some peace and closure is found for all concerned.
It is with a touch of regret that a North Sea decommissioning boom is seen as a positive thing. I know the cycle of life in mortals and engineering follows the same path but still I would rather report about upgrading and investment. Every cloud has a silver lining I guess and so may retirement and redundant platforms.
For sometime those of us with a North Sea background have been casually watching for opportunities in decommissioning. Being a specialist area, however, the jobs go to those with direct experience. Sure, transferable skills can be adapted to a reversal roll, but still openings are rare.
The North Sea is Literally Littered with Work
According to Boston Consulting Group Director Philip Whittaker, the door to more opportunities in this field may be on the horizon. Rigzone has the full article and I will not steal their thunder so the link is below. In short, decommissioning crews have enough skilled people to cope with the work load. What the article suggests is that at some stage the 500 plus installations out there will need to be tackled and many of the top operators are approaching retirement age.
In addition to the fixed installations there are about the same number of sub sea ones with an estimated 10,000 wells to be sealed. I would hate to foot that bill and in some regards the sooner these issues are tackled the cheaper it will be. As always these days only time will tell.
Littered around the internet are examples of what happens when an operator gets the science of cranes wrong. The impact that a disaster can have obviously kicks the subject firmly into my own field. The best way of handling gravity and sizeable weight is to stick to the design limits of the machinery used. The Bishopsgate crooked crane is a great example of looking at safety and operational necessity and THEN coming up with a workable solution.
Favelle Favco are a crane manufacturer with a reputation for delivering rapid lifting for skyscraper projects. In the congested streets of London a mega crane could cause chaos because of the space it needs. Multiplex are putting up an 840 ft high structure for AXA Investments at 22 Bishopsgate. A 20 degree off vertical section allows the crane to sit within the site perimeter and operate ‘ out and up’.
The Construction Index quoted City Lifting expert, Trevor Jepson, when he said this design was a first, ‘Usually the crane hangs on a ‘shelf bracket’ half way up the building but these are very heavy cranes.’
The project is designed by PLP Architecture and when finished it should look like this.
I doubt it is first time this has been tried, though it is probably the first time it has not been operated by someone with their fingers crossed.
For more detail Click Here for the Construction Index article.
That’s right forget the cold and the rain. Put behind you the freezing waters of your favourite work place. Invest your millions in the solar revolution.
So obsessed am I with this industry that I can’t help go all over the web looking at tech advances. On the OilPrice.com site I saw a presentation about a new crystal that is going to dump all previous solar panels back into the shadows of history.
No seriously. Some heavy weight scientific names claim that silicon, the staple of solar panel manufacture, is past it’s sell by date.
According to James Stafford of OilPrice the use of silicon to get the maximum advantage from the sunlight the panels absorb has reached a critical point. For sometime those in the field have been looking around for an alternative and now they have one.
He claims the new crystal can absorb 50% more energy than silicon. It is light, cheap to produce and versatile. I focused on the weight reduction promised in the future. Currently solar panels are heavy. that is heavy to transport, heavy and cumbersome to install. They need a complex process in order to exist in the first place. Worse, yeah I do believe this is a major point, they look awful. They are not so bad if you set them apart from a building in a bank of them, but they make a house into a science experiment.
During this presentation Mr Stafford is pointing out an opportunity to invest in panels that could even be transparent or coloured to blend into their surroundings.
Go for the financial side if you want and do so at your own risk. My point in writing about it is this: Even if the ‘revolution’ in solar power does not come to pass this idea is a salutary reminder to our industry to keep on trucking on.
Human beings appear to me to have an inherent need for stability. Sure we may well be great innovators in one area, but overall we look at the next 10 maybe 15 years on a personal level. In the Northern Hemisphere solar panels are not such an attractive proposition. Even if this new crystal behaves in the way it is claimed, well take a look out the window.
What about the Southern Hemisphere? What if something came along to make solar power more viable. What if that something was so viable that cars were charged for minimal cost? What about so viable light industry was powered by it?
Have a look yourself on the link below. The presentation is 49 minutes long so I suspect only the die-hard techies will see it through, it was more the concept that intrigued me. Perhaps we shouldn’t just look down here for the competition, we should also look up every now and again.
The sheer scale of the Shell Prelude FLNG is remarkable. So is its purpose for existing. At 488m long and 74m wide it is colossal. The Empire State building would look stumpy next to it and the One World Trade Centre in New York is a mere fifty or so meters higher than the vessel is long. Such comparisons are fine but this is a ship so let’s talk other ships. Here is a very rough visual demonstration.
A One Stop Refining Shop
The Prelude field is located off the north west coast of Australia and that is where this massive processing ship will operate. It will be the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas processing platform.
The below explains all about it in glorious Technicolour. My reasons for mentioning it is because it is a marvel. Given the fierce competition in the industry today and the multinational sources of supply who knows if there will be another one on this scale?
I have left the best chunk of hugeness about this project until last.
The Prelude is a mostly South Korean masterpiece. Dock yards with 5000 workers who start the day with team building exercises. I was born just after the era of the ship yards in my home county. Granted, there the workers started each day with a cigarette and a bacon sandwich but they got the job done. I digress, all those workers building for Technip Samsung, using 250,000 tons of steel, how much will it cost?
Estimates run to 12.5 billion USD. That is just a little under the amount the entire Olympic Games cost in London. Impressive, now all they have to do is get it out there and working.
I never gamble but I do know people who do. Seldom does an outside prospect upset a dead certain winner but they can get in the way and occasionally they steal the day.
While we look at Brent prices and investment is being squeezed some small corners are nothing but gung ho. The Ivory Coast, an African nation of about 23 million people, is more stable than many in the area and looks to oil and gas development to secure its future.
Russian firm Lukoil withdrew interest early this year but with established resources and increasing production of both oil and gas other parties are interested. Total, Exxon Mobil, Anadarko and Tullow are all either there or seriously thinking about it. Already producing are Canadian Natural Resources and Ivory Coast’s own Foxtrot International who have been responsible for raising production to 53,000 barrels of oil and 250 million cubic sq feet of gas per day.
Encouraging possible investment in offshore drilling in the Gulf of Guinea is the nation’s dedication to improving its domestic energy efficiency and there may well be contracts awarded to build gas fired power stations. Already the area is pretty well placed with a reliable grid and increased domestic consumption.
To counterbalance the otherwise rosy outlook is a recent history of internal strife and human rights question marks. Although stable now there are significant historical factors that will take some careful risk assessment before jumping in with both feet. In addition there is long standing animosity between Ivory Coast and its eastern neighbour Ghana over offshore and border rights. This has now been settled, I only mention it because often as we know old disputes can return with a vengeance.
NB. Believe me or believe me not, I just went to check on the dispute and low and behold it is simmering again. I hope it is resolved soon but I’ll not hold my breath.
The last thing we need in the industry is more complications at the moment. Several sources are reporting that shipping etc in and out of Turkey is normal despite the coup attempt.
A lot of the world was shocked, but some not even surprised when dissident members of the Turkish military attempted to seize power on Friday. Within 24 hours the government were stating that all was being brought back to order. I was sceptical mainly because every time there is a coup the next bit of news is that all will be well. How many times have we seen it turn out to be the exact opposite?
With neighbour Syria in a mess, a chaotic and war split Turkey would have been awful for its people and terrible news for commerce in the Middle East and Europe.
Here Bloomberg confirm that as of yesterday, Sunday 17th July 2016, all appears calm. Click here
Obviously I have a bias here. Well the North Sea is the closest and busiest oil and gas field for me and also where my own transition from a world away from the industry began. Here I will briefly describe the major oil and gas fields, not for old hands but for those that are considering their next move in life.
Onshore exploration in The Netherlands following from the Second World War led to offshore discoveries. The theory was on the geological evidence that the gas and oil that was found on land was a good indicator that more was to be found under the water.
In 1965 the Sea Gem (BP) made the first offshore gas discovery. This was obviously a novice design. Sea Gem was a steel barge adapted for the purpose and though it had living quarters and a helideck it was a far cry from what is used today.
Tragically on December 27th 1965, as it was being prepared for a tow from the site of its historical find, it capsized with 13 crew losing their lives. This led to several changes in safety operations, including the requirement for an Installation Operations Manager (IOM) to be assigned to any British rig or other installation operating offshore.
The IOM is the master of safety on any installation and has to be registered with the British Health and Safety Executive. This same policy has been adopted by many nations who drill offshore.
The Sea Gem had found gas 42 miles off the British coast in the West Sole Field in September but there was much more to find. In December prior to the disaster, Conoco hit the Viking Gas Field for the first time and in 1966 more promising areas were drilled.
So far there is no mention of oil. The rich resource of black gold lay quietly waiting until it gave itself up in December 1969. What took place was an organised, highly mechanised version of the Klondike gold rush. Field after field was established first in Norwegian waters and then in British waters.
Names that are now almost household familiar came into existence, Piper, Ekofisk, Brent and Montrose.
The discovered areas extended at regular intervals almost to the present day and although there are increasing challenges technology moves onward. It has been a mark of the struggle to harness oil and gas from under the North Sea from the start.
As of 2015 there were 184 off shore rigs working the North Sea. Production of oil and gas has actually increased in recent years as new fields come online. There is estimated to be 22 bn barrels of oil still to be brought up and that is best seen as an encouraging figure when you look at the 42 billion barrels that have been recovered since oil was found in the late 1960s.
The problem is as global prices fall so does the investment in technology and in developing new finds. There is said to be 300+ recognised reserves that are not being pursued at this time.
The ironic thing is production had been falling and the death of the North Sea fields had long seemed likely. Just as production increases the price drops. In addition to the lower profit from all the effort to get the resources up to the surface there is another nasty cost looming. As fields tap out what do you do with all the platforms left behind?
Now here is a bit of sunlight for the otherwise overcast offshore worker. It takes people to fulfil environmental obligations. Platforms and pipelines and even onshore installations do not dissolve. So maybe it is worth a touch of silver lining thinking when deciding what sort of oil and gas industry job you are after.
I’ll leave the present with a nice shot of hope. Much of the investment when times were good is now online and doing very nicely particularly when you look at gas production. Recently the Laggan-Toremore field began running a 2 million home supply into Shetland and out to where it was needed. Total , one of the largest oil companies in the world, made much of adapting to the current volatile markets but there was no hesitation about the years ahead.
Total’s boss, Patrick Pouyanne, said, ‘There is a future for the North Sea, no doubt about it.’
He went to say that the industry had to be smarter in getting profit , but then the history of the North Sea fields has always been about being smarter, the weather and geography have seen to that.
At the time of writing many financial pressures threaten any certain prediction for the future of the North Sea offshore industry.
The drop in global oil prices that began in 2014 and what was seen as a blip has now become a deep depression. For quite some time $100 per barrel was the norm, currently prices struggle to get to $50. The reasons for this are many fold and I might do a specific article on it, however, the main thing to consider in the industry is the future for investment.
Forecasts show that the price per barrel may well fall lower. In addition, the North Sea has dwindling stocks that can be recovered easily. Technology might well mean the North Sea oil fields have many more years left, but only if increasingly efficient ways of getting it out of the seabed are developed. Already 1000s of jobs have been lost. So watch this space.
You might this find article useful if you are looking at a medium to long term commitment to a North Sea energy career. Click Here
This is just a quick mention of the ongoing warnings about skill shortages that might affect oil and gas production of the future. In addition we have US operators pointing out that idle equipment can easily go from standing ready to not fit for purpose.
With booming oil and gas prices there is never enough skilled people or specialist machines. Cautious estimates are saying prices will rise in the next 12 months, but will the lag in ready people and machinery then increase costs?
April 20th 2010, 50 miles off the Louisiana coast the future of deep water drilling was called into serious question when the Deepwater Horizon exploded killing 11 workers. The environmental effects of 100 million gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico after safety features failed has been felt in the area ever since.
People died and many more of the 126 crew were injured, the significance of which was almost forgotten in the scramble to decide who was to blame and who should pay to clear up the sea.
It presented the world with the reality that as exploration was pushing into deeper and deeper water so increased the challenge to ensure safety. This of course is in addition to the inherent technical problems of ultra deep, mile plus drilling.
Compounding the issue is the downturn in the market. Safety measures are never cheap after all. With fields near shore becoming crowded every effort in the area to drive down cost is welcome.
According to the article below there might be light coming from the gloom of the near future. Technology is the cornerstone of the oil and gas industry and from adversity come some of the best solutions.
If the profit is falling the ideal answer is to operate for less. Have a look at a few US suggestions for improving deep water efficiency.