How to prepare any port for FPSO integration
As energy companies continue to access new geographies and resources, it is expected the majority of upcoming FPSO projects will be for the South American and African markets. Mammoet explores how ports and yards in these regions can ensure they are in the best position to serve this growing demand.
A strong pipeline of FPSO projects is anticipated in the coming decade, with around 110 already at the planning stage. These new assets will be focused on pushing the limits of processing capability, and in doing so they are likely to move away from lower capacity refurbished vessels in favor of purpose-built designs.
Although only a selection of currently planned FPSO projects will proceed to production, it’s likely there will be enough to keep specialized shipyards fully booked for years to come. This will mean that the integration work for many of these projects will not be carried out at an established facility that has the required expertise, lifting and transportation capacity readily available.
This is likely to be compounded further by local content requirements, another reason why projects need to use facilities local to the awarding country, rather than choosing from the broader selection of expertise and equipment available globally. Although at first glance this is good news for smaller local ports and yards, the scale and demands of FPSO projects means that many may struggle to meet the requirements to be considered by EPCs.
For example, the shallower water depths at smaller ports mean that floating cranes must be used to integrate heavier modules in open water, rather than directly at the quayside. This increases the cost of entry to FPSO projects, and their risk: poor weather conditions can disrupt critical path tasks.
Storage space must also be found for incoming modules that can be tens of thousands of cubic meters – taking up space that could otherwise be used productively. At smaller yards, these modules must be moved to and from storage by auxiliary equipment that must be hired and left on standby at cost – for example SPMTs, trailers, forklifts and small cranes. This may also impact other projects; for example, demurrage charges might be incurred at smaller ports where it is difficult to free up quay space.
The sheer weight of FPSO modules is also a significant issue for smaller yards and ports. Seeking greater efficiencies, these have grown to regularly exceed 3,000t, and can be well over 5,000t for FLNG projects.
Very few ports in the world have the infrastructure to lift these kinds of objects. In addition, the land at many smaller ports will not withstand the required ground bearing pressures – above 25t/m2 – to make these lifts a reality – especially close to the quay wall, where it is weakest.
So, the bottleneck in suitable space and capacity at smaller yards could force EPCs to consider using a higher number of smaller, lighter modules to make projects feasible. This would be sub-optimal, as it would result in less efficient FPSO vessels – increasing the number of moves required to build them, the number of connections, the number of commissioning tests and therefore the overall costs involved.
The situation is complicated further by greater competition from outside the oil and gas industry for both locations and equipment. This is due to the huge growth in offshore wind projects as the world moves to more renewable energy sources: there are over 275 offshore wind projects planned for the next five years alone, with roughly 10% of these being floating foundation projects as opposed to conventional fixed bottom turbines.
This means demand for space in ports will only increase in the short term; with floating offshore wind projects in particular needing very similar lifting and transport equipment to FPSO integrations. This will result in more competition for the best locations as well as for the necessary lifting equipment, transportation vehicles and workforces.
For example, the higher number of items that need to be moved to complete an offshore wind project, including tower sections, blades, turbine generators and so on, will keep the world’s floating cranes busier for longer. Plus, more often than not, in locations on the other side of the world from major FPSO and FLNG projects.
All of which means that yards will have to work with a smaller toolbox during projects for the oil & gas sector.
Demand for expertise
Sourcing the right equipment and locations will not be the only challenge for EPCs. The skilled labor needed for FPSO integrations will also be more difficult to find. This is on one level an issue of cost – if projects must use a larger number of smaller modules – due to the facilities and equipment available to them – there will necessarily be a demand for more people to perform this additional work. In some cases, this could mean up to 1,500 people working at height, adding cost and safety risks – not to mention significant time as they get to and from their work site – for both the yard owner and the EPC.
But the concentration of FPSO projects in South America and Africa also means that a high volume of skilled labor will need to be sourced in regions without a strong track record in this type of work. For example, the storage and movement of modules around site will require experienced marshalling staff, which may be hard to find given the likely high concentration of projects in these parts of the world. Furthermore, infrastructure such as accommodation and restaurants will need to be found for what can be thousands of people.
The solutions are available
Finding solutions to these challenges will benefit organizations across the supply chain – ports and yards will be able to compete for work they may not otherwise consider, whilst EPCs will benefit from greater choice in how to meet local content requirements and fulfil their projects.
It will therefore be important to find ways of working that are as flexible as possible, so that parts of the project that must be completed locally can be, while other parts can be performed where the expertise is readily available. Suppliers can contribute to this by offering their services in a way that avoids capital expenditure where possible in favor of sourcing on a de-risked, pay-as-you-go basis.
Let’s look at some of the solutions that are key to getting more facilities ready for FPSO projects.
Increasing lift capacity
Addressing the bottleneck of lifting capacity at local yards and ports will open up options for EPCs, allowing more locations to handle the largest possible module sizes – and therefore the most efficient fabrication and integration methodologies.
But this improvement in infrastructure must be done in a way that minimizes capital expenditure – making the use of Mammoet’s heavy lift cranes a highly effective solution. These giant lifting machines offer a number of key advantages for FPSO projects.
The capacity to make lifts well in excess of 1,000t means that modules can be lifted from their point of fabrication, or very close to it. This allows greater flexibility as to where the project takes place, as lifting capacity can be brought to wherever fabrication happens; helping projects to support more local content.
Because modules can be lifted from the point of fabrication to the vessel, this means that they can be built, partially integrated and tested at ground level. This helps to minimize not only working at height costs and safety risks, but also transportation costs.
This was a critical factor for the Egina project in Nigeria, as it enabled Total to satisfy local content requirements by integrating modules locally to the oil field. In total, six topside modules were built and integrated in Nigeria, with a high proportion of project hours worked in the country by 1,700 people there.
Watch Mammoet’s SK350 completing lifts for the Total Egina project in Nigeria here: https://youtu.be/4vlaaF2xQtw.
In addition to lifting power, the long outreach of heavy lift cranes also offers important benefits and flexibility in how integrations can be executed. The safety and scale of lifts can be increased by exerting ground pressure away from the weaker quay edge. This proved useful for the P-74 project in Brazil, where an outreach of up to 81m was used to work around ground conditions on site without compromising module sizes.
Longer outreach also facilitates multiple lifts from a single crane position, which means that modules can be fabricated closer together to optimize use of productive space on site. This methodology was also used for the P-74 project, where Mammoet’s SK350 crane lifted all modules from one position. This not only helped to ensure maximum uptime and less time reconfiguring or moving the crane, but also minimized the need to transport the modules. This can be a notable advantage, as ports will not need to budget for as much auxiliary transport equipment, as projects can be completed using equipment already owned by the yard.
Importantly, greater reach during integration also means that modules can be lifted without unmooring , repositioning or rotating the ship – which can be a difficult and costly operation.
Addressing low ground bearing pressures
Lifting heavy loads exerts high pressure on quaysides, which can rule out the construction of larger modules and certain types of integration work, such as skidding. In many cases, reinforcing the quayside is too expensive to consider so other solutions must be found.
The use of a crane with long outreach as detailed above is one solution, as this will allow the pressure exerted by lifts to be focused away from the quay’s weakest areas. However, with pressures of between 20 and 28t/m2 typical for the lifting of heavy modules, further work is sometimes needed to make the most of the land available. This is especially the case with smaller yards, which may have the required quay space but not suitable areas to load-in, marshal and store modules ready for integration.
Mammoet’s Enviro-Mat is useful here, as it allows land to be developed to withstand higher pressures; for example, repeated SPMT traffic as modules are moved. Added to a mixture of site soil and cement, Enviro-Mat produces a surface that can easily achieve ground bearing pressures of 30t/m2 and as high as 50t/m2. Importantly, whilst it can be used as a permanent surface, it can also be easily crushed and returned to the soil with no environmental impact.
During past projects Enviro-Mat has been used to cover areas as large as 5,000m2 in a single day, so it’s possible to transform ports at relatively short notice. It was used extensively during the Dangote refinery project in Nigeria, to help transform a river delta into solid ground.
See how Enviro-Mat helped to convert former swampland at the Dangote site: https://youtu.be/HIdXGGvm9lE?t=132.
Opening new locations
Mammoet’s SK6,000 crane has been designed specifically to meet the demands of growing FPSO module sizes. Despite its huge 6,000t lift capacity, it is suitable for use at large and small ports alike, given that its design prioritizes efficient use of space and minimizes the ground bearing pressures exerted. These are typically 9-12t/m2 when idle and 20-28t/m2 when lifting – meaning the SK6,000 has the power to bring some of the world’s largest projects to unexpected locations.
The combination of its lift capacity and outreach of 144m gives maximum flexibility in methodology, so even large-scale modules to be lifted with one piece of equipment and from just one location. This includes flare towers of up to 1,500t and 150m – meaning a single crane could integrate the entire vessel, if needed.
Optimizing existing facilities and expertise
In addition to ensuring the right lifting equipment and ground bearing pressures, shipyards will also need to consider a range of other upgrades and optimizations to be able to accommodate the larger FPSO projects being planned. Mammoet can support here by undertaking a yard audit that will clarify the steps required to enter this market – including assessment of bollard strength, local tides, quay depth and the limits of lifting operations within each facility.
Mammoet is also able to offer a range of expertise and innovations, ensuring the equipment available on site can be used to its maximum potential. Specialized slinging arrangements can maximize the lift capacity possible from cranes at port, utilizing carbon fiber rope slings to ensure effort is expended lifting the load rather than the rope. Additionally, adjustable rigging systems that shift the center of gravity during each lift help to cut down on reconfiguration of the crane, in turn saving time and money during the course of a project.
Alternate integration methods
As modules get larger, Mammoet is also seeing increasing demand for the movement of some truly massive loads. This has included a number of record-breaking projects, such as the 47,830t load-out of the Arkutun Dagi topside in Korea, the 40m jack-up of the 13,800t Malikai topside in Malaysia and the 24,000t load-in of Shell’s Brent Delta topside in the UK.
Mammoet’s specialist team can provide a full package of expertise and equipment to move these loads, including technologies such as the Mega Jack 5200 system – used for Arkutun Dagi – and a range of state-of-the-art skidding and ballasting equipment. This means it is able to undertake some exceptional feats of engineering to get projects moving as efficiently as possible.
Of course, this technology can be put to work during the integration of FPSO and FLNG vessels, under the right conditions. There’s no better example of this than the work with Saipem for the Jangkrik project.
Watch the integration of this 14,273t module: https://youtu.be/_n1xadAfps4.
The right partner such as South America, Africa and the Middle East stand to benefit from a highly productive upcoming decade. In turn, EPCs will gain a more diverse marketplace to find the best outcome for their projects.
But reaching this point will require working with the right partner to deliver effective solutions for the challenges of size, space and weight that lie ahead. Mammoet is ideally positioned to help to meet these challenges with minimal demands on capital expenditure.