Ready, set – drill

Drilling started successfully on the Culzean project in September. It was a major milestone for one of Maersk Oil’s key projects and marked a strong collaboration with Maersk Drilling.

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The Culzean project

  • Maersk Oil operates the Culzean development with a 49.99% interest. Its co-venturers are BP (Britoil) 32% and JX Nippon, 18.01%
  • The field has resources estimated at 250-300 million barrels of oil equivalent
  • Production is expected to start in 2019 and continue for at least 13 years, with a plateau production of 60,000–90,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day
  • Culzean was approved by the UK Oil & Gas Authority in August 2015

The drilling team gathered to watch a combination of footage from a remote submersible and data scrolling across the screens – torque, weight, pump pressure.

All attention in the doghouse – the all-purpose room next to the driller’s cabin on the Maersk Highlander rig, which is used as an office for the driller and storehouse for small objects – was on the start up of drilling on Culzean, the USD 4.5 billion Maersk Oil-operated North Sea project that is expected to deliver 5% of the UK’s gas needs.

It was vital to ensure the drill string was vertical, in order to start the well correctly and hence make the ensuing sections simpler, and the indicators showed that all the planning and preparation was paying off. Maersk Drilling acquired the newbuild Maersk Highlander in May and the teams from the two businesses have worked closely together to ensure the smooth start up.

“We’ve done a lot of work over the last three or four months to get the rig ready for operation, so it’s really exciting to start using it the way it was designed to be. They are challenging wells to drill and you’ve got to be very vigilant,” says Rohan Corlett, Maersk Oil’s Drilling Supervisor.

You just have to be vigilant on Culzean's challenging wells.
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Rohan Corlett, Maersk Oil’s Drilling Supervisor

The Maersk Highlander

  • The newbuild harsh environment rig was acquired by Maersk Drilling from a subsidiary of Hercules Offshore and has a five-year contract for work on Culzean
  • With legs of 167 metres, it can operate in 120 metres of water and has a drilling depth of more than 9,000 metres
  • It is capable of handling the high pressure and high temperature (HPHT) conditions present on Culzean and has an accommodation capacity of up to 150 personnel

It was an important milestone for both Maersk Oil and Maersk Drilling, which are both part of the new Energy division.

“It’s such a major project, not only for Maersk but also for the UK. It’s really fascinating to be working on such a big plan and being involved from the beginning,” says Corlett, who was among the first batch of MITAS (Maersk International Technology and Science Programme) programme participants in 2006, which gave him the opportunity to build a broad base of experience across the oil and drilling industry.

Shared values

It has been the most accelerated project that Lars Kasueske, Rig Manager for the Maersk Highlander, has been involved with in his 22 years with the company.

“We basically didn’t really know the rig when it was purchased in late May this year, and yet we turned it into a Maersk Drilling rig with a trained Maersk crew and all the Maersk Drilling systems implemented, and on top of that got the safety case approved allowing us to operate in the UK,” Kasueske says.

“All this was achieved over a 3 month period, due to the dedication of the people involved and having good systems, and the Maersk Drilling team behind us.”

Both Kasueske and Corlett, the Maersk Oil drilling supervisor, point to the quality of the staff and teamwork between Maersk Oil and Maersk Drilling as key factors behind the successful start up of drilling – and some interesting ways of building up trust and cooperation.

“We got to know each other through a team building course before we came out here. We were out on a loch in Scotland, where we made a raft from barrels and wood, and sailed out to an island and camped in the woods. It’s an unusual way of working together and learning how the team works,” Corlett explains.

“It’s been really good to work with Maersk Drilling. We share the same values and mindset, and it’s been a great experience to cooperate so well on such a big project.”

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