Equinor announces sailaway of Johan Sverdrup drilling topside


STAVANGER -- The Johan Sverdrup drilling topside is now sailing from the Aibel yard in Haugesund, on its way to the North Sea. The topside is the first, and biggest, structure to be completed and 85% fully tested onshore before being installed offshore in a single lift.

The 147-m Johan Sverdrup drilling platform has been a highly visible landmark in the Haugesund townscape for the last nine months. On May 31, however, it was gone. In the afternoon, four tugs will take control of the barge carrying the topside, heading towards Bømlafjorden at Stord.

Here the 22,000-ton steel structure will be transferred to the Pioneering Spirit, the world’s biggest heavy-lift vessel, before proceeding to Johan Sverdrup field for installation as the second of four platforms in Phase 1 of the development.

Unique construction process

Aibel won the contract for the Johan Sverdrup drilling topside in February 2015. The contract, worth NOK 8 billion, came at a very important time for Norwegian supplier industry. It is also one of the biggest individual contracts awarded during Phase 1 of the field development, in addition to being among the biggest on the Norwegian continental shelf.

The Johan Sverdrup drilling topside at the Aibel yard in Haugesund. Photo: Equinor.

The largest module, the main deck, was built at Aibel’s yard in Thailand. The drilling support module, the second largest unit, was built in Haugesund. The third module, the derrick and associated equipment, was built by Nymo in Grimstad.

The three modules were assembled in Klosterfjorden in early September 2017. The topside was then towed in to Aibel’s yard in Haugesund. The past nine months hook-up and fabrication activities have taken place at the yard. At the same time Equinor has completed the testing of equipment on board the platform before the whole topside structure is now being transported offshore.

Lars Håvardsholm, Equinor’s project manager for the drilling platform, is very pleased with the job Aibel has done and, not least, the good teamwork during the process.

“This is the first and biggest platform being assembled onshore and prepared for installation offshore in one single lift, so this is path breaking. The plan has been challenging at times, all work from start to finish taking just 39 months, but it has all been excellently delivered both with regard to safety, costs and quality,” says Håvardsholm.

At most, 4,000 people in Aibel and 150 people in Equinor have been working on the project. The collaboration with Odfjell Drilling, who will operate the drilling rig, and NOV, the supplier of the drilling facilities, has also been good, according to Håvardsholm.

Great savings

When the drilling platform arrives on Johan Sverdrup field, everything will be lifted into position in one single lift by the Pioneering Spirit heavy-lift vessel. Thanks to the vessel’s leading-edge lifting technology it is possible to assemble, complete and test a larger topside structure onshore – which previously had to be done offshore. On the drilling platform, a full 85% of the necessary tests are already completed.

This allows for great savings, both of man hours and costs, and by moving the work from offshore to onshore reduces risks related to health, environment and safety.

The Johan Sverdrup topside is the first platform installation job by the Pioneering Spirit, and thus unique in a global context.

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