The Pioneering Spirit is the first to position a 22,000 tonne drilling platform on its substructure. This special ship operated by the Allseas offshore company thereby set a new record: the heaviest ever installation job in one go.

The Pioneering Spirit, the ship with its U-shaped foredeck, was originally designed by Allseas CEO Edward Heerema, with the idea of lifting end-of-life oil and gas drilling platforms from their substructure and bringing them to shore in one go. The expensive and weather-dependent work at sea can then be kept as short as possible, and there is sufficient time for further dismantling on land. But Heerema soon realised that if you could lift a platform off its substructure, then you could also install one on its substructure.

That has now been done for the first time by the Pioneering Spirit, when positioning the 22,000 tonne drilling rig off the Norway coast, 160 km from Stavanger.

Calm seas

The operation took a total of around 12 hours. Once the platform had been brought from a barge to the Pioneering Spirit and fixed to the ship using the lifting arms, a nine-hour journey was undertaken to get to the oilfield where the substructure was already in place. It then took three hours to position the platform on the substructure and to move 500 m away. The operation was carried out in calm seas, but it was foggy at the drilling location. It was nevertheless a tense moment when the platform, already mounted on its substructure, was ready to be released by the lifting arms. At that point, the Pioneering Spirit is freed from its burden and immediately rises up. Care must then be taken that no damage is caused.

Largest recent oil discovery in the north sea

The platform will drill for oil in the Johan Sverdrup field. The sea there is around 110 m deep and the oil field is 1900 m below the sea bed. The field has several concessions and is regarded to be one of the largest discoveries of oil in the North Sea of late. At full capacity, it will be able to produce some 500,000 barrels of oil per day. By comparison: The USA and Saudi Arabia, currently the largest producers, produce around ten million barrels per day.

Pipe layer

After this job, the Pioneering Spirit will return to the Black Sea to continue laying the Turkstream oil pipeline between Russia and Turkey, as the Pioneering Spirit can also be converted into a pipe laying vessel. The last 700 km now remains to be laid, after around 1100 km of pipeline was laid last year at a depth of 2200 m.

The Pioneering Spirit will then return to Norwegian waters again to position a 26,000 tonne exploratory platform and an 18,000 tonne accommodation platform in the Johan Sverdrup field. It will then remove two other platforms that are no longer in service.

See below the video that Allseas produced of the positioning of the platform.

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