Stellar performance in stormy weather

Maersk Drilling’s newly built hardware has hit the ground running, delivering consistent operations from the start. It achieved this with features such as more automation and carefully planned hiring, and customers are welcoming the performance.

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Maersk Interceptor and her sisters are physically imposing and the most advanced jack-up rigs in existence, capable of withstanding and operating reliably and safely in waves of up to almost 30 metres.

Building the next generation of ships and rigs

  • The XLEs will be featured in a new Discovery Channel television series, which will show the Group’s energy supply chain, by following Maersk experts and subcontractors as they design and build the next generation of ships and drilling rigs
  • Filming started earlier this year and will mainly take place in Denmark, Norway and South Korea, and the series will be broadcast in late 2016

With legs longer than 200 metres, the world’s largest rig towers over Mekjarvik harbour in Norway, ready to take on the sometimes violent weather and waters of the North Sea.

Known as XLEs (extra-large enhanced), the Maersk Interceptor and her sisters are physically imposing and the most advanced jack-up rigs in existence, capable of withstanding and operating reliably and safely in waves of up to almost 30 metres.

To build them, and the new drillships in Maersk ­Drilling’s fleet, designers took the best of what they already had. They then scaled it up in size to match the bigger hardware, installed measures to improve efficiency, and introduced a pro-active hiring policy to ensure crews were up to speed from the first day of operations.

In the first half of 2015, four of the five newbuilds that were already in service operated more than 96% of the time, with the Maersk Viking drillship hitting 99.6% operational time. Chief Commercial Officer Ana Zambelli says advanced equipment that has been proven to be efficient and reliable has helped Maersk Drilling to win contracts while the markets are tough, and put it in a good position to take advantage of any upturn.

“It’s very satisfying to have an idea and then see it through to the point where it’s working so well”, says Chief Technology Officer Frederik Smidth. “It’s an engineer’s dream scenario”. 

The Viking Team

The Maersk Viking drillship started operations in the Gulf of Mexico last year, for ExxonMobil on its Julia project.

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Seeing the the hardware in action is a great satisfaction for Maersk Drilling’s Chief Technology Officer Frederik Smidth.

The XL Enhanced jack-up

The four XLEs – Intrepid, Interceptor, Integrator and one yet to be named – can operate in water 150m deep, year-round in the North Sea
Cantilever reach from stern to well centre of 33.5m, and from centre line to each side of more than 11m, with a load of up to 1,400 tonnes
Improved working and living conditions for the crew with 150 single bed cabins

Maersk Drilling budgets with an operational uptime of 90%, while industry experience indicates that 85% is common among startups. Up until now, Maersk Viking has operated with an uptime of 99% - a level of efficiency that means clients get the optimum use of the expensive asset they have hired.

“Word has spread among customers and the industry, giving us a chance to get to the negotiating table”, says Claus Bachmann, Vice President and Asset Manager for deepwater operations, whose operational area includes the four new drillships. “It has been a stellar performance, more or less since the first day”.

One of the most important elements in this example was the relationship between the two companies. The rig and onshore rig teams were together for a year prior to delivery and having a contact in place allowed for early engagement with ExxonMobil.

“The successful start-up of the Viking was achieved through a strong collaborative effort between Maersk Drilling and ExxonMobil”, says Harry Longwell, Drilling Operations Manager for North America and Deepwater at ExxonMobil. “The Maersk Drilling and ExxonMobil ‘Viking Team’ has overcome all challenges to date”.

Hiring for success

Safety on the rigs and drillships has been given special attention, which has led to there being a high degree of automation on the drill floor. This ensures safe operations and consistent performance, as higher transit speeds and increased capacity reduce the overall logistics costs for oil companies.

Operational performance of Maersk Drilling’s newbuilds in H1 2015

  • Maersk Viking 99.6%
  • Maersk Venturer 99.0%
  • Maersk Interceptor 98.1%
  • Maersk Intrepid 96.8%
  • Maersk Valiant 93.0%

In a competitive hiring market, Maersk Drilling instigated a specific plan for the newbuilds, to which Jacob Odgaard – who headed the Operational Readiness Team – attributes a large part of their success. This included setting the desired proportion of current Maersk ­Drilling employees against outside hires and figures for how many would be taken from current rigs. In addition, the provided training was carefully tailored for each position. Finally, the plan was implemented from the very onset, when the newbuilds were ordered.

“People recognised that we were a serious company and that we really went to great lengths to train people prior to going into operation. The word spread and we got lots of applicants”, Odgaard says.

Right people, right mindset

The XLEs can operate more efficiently because of their greater degree of automation, innovative design around handling and a cantilever with extended reach, which gives added flexibility in drilling, especially over the larger platforms in field development.

Uptime and drilling efficiency are maximised through dual pipe handling: while one string is working in the well bore, a second string of casing, drill pipe or bottom hole assembly can be assembled or disassembled and stored, ready for use, in the set-back area - thus reducing the non-productive time.

“This is important to customers as Maersk Drilling’s day rate typically constitutes between a third and half of the total daily cost. In a tough market where contracts are hard to come by, this kind of startup performance can make a driller the partner of choice for oil companies”, says Per Gøbel, Vice President and Asset Manager for the harsh environment jack-ups.

“We can use the downturn to position ourselves as the preferred supplier”, says Gøbel, who has three XLEs operating in Norway and a fourth arriving in 2016. “Operators are driving for efficiency, and with this hardware Maersk Drilling is years ahead”.

Deepwater drillships

  • Maersk Drilling is expanding its fleet with four 228m long drillships – Maersk Viking, Maersk Valiant, ­Maersk Venturer and Maersk Voyager – that can operate at water depths exceeding 3,500m and drill wells of more than 12,200m
  • They have an advanced positioning control system, so they can automatically maintain a fixed position in severe weather conditions with waves of up to 11m and wind speeds of up to 26m per second
  • Higher transit speeds and increased capacity will reduce the overall logistics costs for oil companies

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