Congo FDPSO An Industry First
- Ted Moon (JPT Online Technology Editor)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 2010
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 34 - 37
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Off the coast of the Republic of Congo and at water depths of 1400 m (4,600 ft), the Azurite field began production in August from a unique facility, the industry’s first floating pro-duction, storage, and offloading vessel with drilling capacity (FDPSO). Touted as a cost-efficient solution for drilling and producing deepwater fields, the Azurite FDPSO allows vessel owner Prosafe Production and operator Murphy Oil bragging rights for developing an installation that many in the industry had seen as economically unsustainable.
The unit is equipped to process 60,000 BFPD and 40,000 BOPD and store approximately 1.3 million bbls of crude at full production, in a manner similar to a traditional floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) vessel. However, it is also able to drill wells without the need for other drill-ing vessels such as mobile offshore drilling units or jackup rigs. While the concept of an FDPSO has been known for decades, the launch of the Azurite marks the first time that the concept has become a reality.
Making this possible required a concerted team effort between Prosafe, Murphy, their various engineering and equipment providers, and classification provider Det Norske Veritas (DNV).
Field Development Evolves
The Azurite field, which is located in the Mer Profonde Sud block approximately 150 km off the coast, was discovered in 2005 and marks Murphy Oil’s first operated development in west Africa. Murphy was keenly aware of the need to choose a production option that would maximize recovery of the field’s estimated 70 to 75 million BOE recoverable reserves while also keeping costs to a minimum.
The initial development plan called for the subsea infrastructure to link to an FPSO, a scenario that had been successful in the region and at similar water depths. Murphy submitted a bid package in June 2006 to vessel providers for the conversion and delivery of an FPSO, at this point without any provision for a drilling component tied to it.
However, even at this stage Murphy was considering the feasibility of adding a drilling package to an FPSO—driven primarily by the expensive market for drilling rigs. “We were trying to figure out the best development scenario given our reserves position,” said Ken Hampshire, Azurite field development manager for Murphy Oil. “Other development scenarios, including spars and tension-leg platforms, required a great deal of drilling capacity that had to be brought in independently of the production facility.“Even the FPSO option did not solve our drilling-management challenges, and at the time rig rates were extremely high,” Hampshire said, quoting daily rig rates of USD 500,000 and higher. “If you add all other costs associated with securing a rig capable of performing subsea drilling and completions in 5,000 ft of water, you’re faced with costs in the range of USD 750,000–800,000 per day.”
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