The new design targets efficiency and cost reduction for future deepwater operations
More than most of the industry’s sub-sectors, the deepwater drilling market in particular has had a tough year. With costs slashed, few operators are in a position to embark on the expensive and technically challenging developments which were being talked up a few years ago. Nevertheless, day rates for deepwater drillships are still hovering at around US$475,000 – a figure that would benefit from being reduced through some clever innovation and smart engineering. Operators and technology providers are already concentrating on doing more with less, as efficiency remains the watchword. As a result, many new rigs have been slimmed down or totally redesigned with specific markets and tasks in mind. In October, for example, Aker Solutions unveiled its new “Lean Semi” semi-sub design, with a view towards meeting the greatest demands of the widest market – and doing so more affordably. The same can be said of drillships. Dutch engineering and design firm GustoMSC recently announced a new design, with a view to bringing mid- to deepwater developments online in as cost-effective a manner as possible. Ditching the over-specification of ultra-deepwater vessels, GustoMSC has dispensed with superfluous equipment and focused on meeting the broadest drilling requirements with optimised hardware. This the central focus of the Scylax. The company notes: “Whereas ultra-deepwater units feature ever-increasing hook loads and capacities, these requirements can be reduced for a large amount of the wells in [the] deepwater. Designing the Scylax based on these rationalised requirements allows for different choices to be made in the design, reducing building and operating costs.”
Scy is the limit GustoMSC is keen to emphasise that the Scylax is “smarter, rather than just bigger or heavier.” In its basic form, the Scylax is a 190m vessel with a displacement of 53,000 tonnes and accommodation for up to 160 personnel. Its design features a single derrick or drilling mast set-up with offline stand building, dual BOPs and is aimed at operations in water depth ranging from 7,000-10,000 feet (2,100-3,000m). The designers note that the vessel’s single well centre can service most well designs, while using less equipment. In turn, that reduces the overall build cost and the costs of maintaining and operating the drill floor – all of which should save operators money. Hook load and set-back capacity – 2,000 kips and 1,000 tonnes respectively – are also based on common deepwater well designs, rather than the bespoke arrangements of the more specialised ultra-deep units. All major manufacturers’ drilling packages can also be integrated into the design, which can drill distances of up to 30,000 feet (9,100m). Similarly, the dual-BOP carrying capacity – completely superfluous or completely necessary, depending on one’s point of view – can reduce downtime in the event of any disruption. In addition, managed pressure drilling systems can be included in the design, or provisions can be made in case systems are added at a later date. As has been seen with recent rig design, deck flexibility is also important if new vessels are to meet a broader array of missions than before. The Scylax has 2,900 m2 of dedicated deck area, with almost the same again (2,100 m2) free for other equipment as needed, and a further 600 m2 of storage, for a total of 5,900 m2 – an area GustoMSC claims is the largest in its class. That is supported by in-hull riser storage, in-hull mud and bulk systems and protected walkways. Its total thruster power of 24 MW means transit speed is a fairly brisk 13 knots, making the Scylax ideal as a fast response to short campaigns. This also helps to reduce transit periods, again saving money. With day rates so low already, new rig designs must distinguish themselves in terms of cost reductions and efficiency gains – GustoMSC is confident that it can do so. Speaking at the unveiling of the design at OSEA 2016 in Singapore, the company’s marketing manager, Mattijs Faber, commented: “Research tells us that Skylax will be effective in 94% of wells globally, and is particularly suited to wells in this region. It is very focused, half the size of what you can find in the market, and is therefore considerably cheaper than ultra-deepwater units.” “The Asia-Pacific is a very important market for us, and OSEA, being held in Singapore, where many rig owners have a foothold and many shipyards are located, makes it a vital hub for us… I am confident 2017 will see new opportunities for us to add value to our clients and help them distinguish their operations from the rest of the market,” he added. The unveiling of the design is also a sign that things may be looking up for drillers in 2017. A US$50 oil floor suggested by the latest OPEC meeting is not the turnaround some will have been praying for, but it offers a lifeline to the beleaguered deepwater market – a lifeline that may well be attached to vessels like the Scylax.