Saluting the fleet: bringing the Thunder Horse South Expansion project online

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Last edited: 23 January 2017

The Thunder Horse South Expansion project will boost production from BP’s giant field in the Gulf of Mexico by up to 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day. BP Magazine takes a look at the fleet of drilling and construction vessels that helped the team to complete the project 11 months ahead of schedule and $150 million under budget

Located 150 miles (240 kilometres) south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico, US, Thunder Horse is BP’s largest production and drilling platform in the region. It can house almost 300 workers in its living quarters. It can produce up to 250,000 barrels of oil a day and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas. The Thunder Horse South Expansion project adds a new subsea drill centre approximately two miles (three kilometres) from the Thunder Horse platform. Here, we take a look at the drilling and construction vessels involved:

Theodore Spoolbase

Technip’s spoolbase facility, located just south of Mobile, Alabama, US, covers more than 60 acres (24 hectares) and is equipped to fabricate and store flowlines for deepwater activities in the Gulf of Mexico. At the facility, long sections of pipe, 10 inches (25 centimetres) in diameter, and more than an inch thick, were welded together to form the two 11,000-foot (3,350-metre) flowlines. The flowlines were then spooled around a massive reel mounted on the deck of Deep Blue.

Development Driller III

The project in numbers

  • Deep Blue’s dimensions: 655 x 100 feet (200 x 30 metres)
  • Two flowlines: each 11,000 feet (3,350 metres) long
  • Thunder Horse is located 150 miles (240 kilometres) southeast of New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Operates at a water depth of more than 6,000 feet (1,830metres)
  • It has the capacity to handle 250,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas per day
     
This ultra-deepwater semisubmersible rig, owned by Transocean, drilled the first of the project’s three new wells. Instead of anchoring to the seafloor, the rig’s dynamic positioning system uses sensors and computer-controlled thrusters to hold the vessel steady while drilling operations progress.

Deep Blue

Over a period of eight days (and with the help of the Grand Canyon II), Technip’s Deep Blue unspooled and lowered two new flowlines to the seabed to connect the existing drill centre below the Thunder Horse platform with the new drill centre, which ties together three new wells and an existing fourth well. BP and Technip used both traditional physical and advanced 3D simulation modelling techniques to develop the best solution to safely initiate the flowlines below Thunder Horse without affecting the platform’s production. Deep Blue is one of the world’s most technologically advanced ultra-deepwater pipelay and subsea construction vessels.

Grand Canyon II

In support of Deep Blue, Grand Canyon II assisted with the ‘pull-in operations’, which included pulling in the end of the flowline and placing it in its final position below the platform. The vessel also performed the precommissioning work for the flowlines once they were installed on the seabed. This work involved flooding, cleaning and gauging the pipelines to ensure their integrity.

Siem Stingray

All of the project’s new subsea equipment, apart from flowlines, was installed by this multi-service subsea construction vessel—including production manifolds (used to commingle the flow of oil from multiple wells into the flowlines) and the jumpers (pipes that connect one piece of subsea equipment to another). The vessel is under long-term charter to BP for inspection, repair and maintenance of existing subsea facilities.

The depths of a major project