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FES
FES

FES International supplies crucial Disconnectable Transfer Turret for Helix Producer 1

In 2008 global oil and gas producer Helix Energy began converting the Helix Producer 1 into a floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel for use on the Phoenix oil field, located in blocks 236 and 237 in the central Green Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico.

At that time, the majority of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was conducted from fixed platforms, and damage caused by bad weather or on-site emergencies such as fires, can have a significant impact for fixed platforms as downtime equates to operational disruption and potentially to significant commercial loss.

Often, it takes a major incident in the oil & gas energy industry, such as the Deepwater Horizon disaster, to drive development and the use of innovative technologies. An example of this is the investment into dynamically positioned floating production units (FPUs) or FPSOs which come equipped with fully disconnectable transfer systems (DTS) / turrets.

At that time, the majority of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was conducted from fixed platforms. Damage caused by bad weather or on-site emergencies such as fires, can have a significant impact for fixed platforms as downtime equates to operational disruption and, potentially, to significant commercial loss…

Challenge

FES International, a leading provider of fluid transfer systems, was commissioned by Helix Energy to design and deliver a full, disconnectable transfer system which would connect to the side of the Helix Producer 1 and allow the FPSO to use its dynamically positioning (DP) systems to move with the tide of the ocean without causing damage to the risers attached the seabed oil well.

Strategy

FES designed a bespoke DTS / turret at its manufacturing facility in North East England, so that – in the event of an oncoming storm – it would allow for a quick disconnection of the vessel from the risers, ensuring that the well is closed off at speed and the FPSO/FPU can leave its location and return when the weather is more appropriate.

A controlled disconnect will usually take longer at around four to five hours, as flow lines are flushed and the buoy is lowered for safety. However, in an emergency, where an immediate response is needed, the DTS / turret can be quickly disconnected within minutes, isolating the flowlines, with no spillage of hydrocarbons into the surrounding waters.

An important element of the DTS / turret  is the swivel, which allows the FPSO to spin around the turret without damaging the risers below the surface level. As the weather changes, the ship needs to be able to move and change direction without tangling the riser wires which are attached to the well. FES also designed specific swivels for the HP1’s turret and sets of QCDC clamps which are important to allow rapid disconnection from the riser buoy. Helix chose FES International as it is one of the only companies in the world able to provide both turrets and swivels.

Results

Following the implementation, Helix now has the capability to transfer oil from wells to the FPSO – a process which would previously not have been possible.

After FES International delivered the DTS / turret and the vessel was about to start producing oil on the Phoenix site, the Deepwater Horizon disaster hit the region. As a result of the Helix Producer 1’s bespoke DTS/ turret system, it became a crucial part of the BP recovery operation as it was the only FPU in the region that could quickly disconnect and travel to the Macondo site.

This year Helix Energy presented the MMS with a permanent emergency procedure called the Helix Fast Response System (HFRS) that would cover the Gulf of Mexico in case of any future disasters helping to minimise risk in the region. FES worked closely with Helix Energy to develop the safety procedure which was introduced in October 2011.

The managing director of FES International said:

“The decision by Helix Energy to commission us to supply a full DTS / Turret is recognition of the standards we aim for at FES and of the quality of the work we undertake.

“Safety and the continuity of working during extreme weather conditions are two major challenges to offshore projects; we are very proud to have been involved with this project and subsequently received a contract extension to continue working with the HP1 as the organisation supplies the Mexican Gulf with the official Fast Response System.”

Flexible Engineered Solutions International (FES) is a leading provider of fluid transfer solutions to the offshore industry. With over 40 years’ experience, FES International has a proven track record in the design, manufacture and supply of products to the oil and gas and offshore renewables markets.

For more information on FES International products and services please email fes@fesltd.co.uk or call 01670 524 960.