Reaching 3,500 metres under the sea

The Maersk Valiant drillship in the Gulf of Mexico can operate in water depths that exceed 3,500 metres and maintain a fixed position in waves of up to 11m. Its advanced technology and strong performance show how Maersk Drilling is maintaining business in tough markets.

Reaching 3500

Maersk Valiant

  • 228 metres in length
  • 12,000 metres drilling depth
  • 97% Maersk Drilling’s operational uptime in 2015
  • 7 new contracts won in 2015

The driller on the Maersk Valiant toggles the joystick and scans the bank of screens that surround his chair as data scrolls past.

Will Evans is working the fully automated drill floor on the Maersk Valiant. While this means that there are no workers on the floor during operations, his job remains as challenging as ever, as he must keep a wary eye on the information coming through to ensure the work remains on schedule throughout each 12-hour shift.

“It’s mentally tough. There are lots of things to keep an eye on and you stay more alert,” he says. “You need to watch the trends in the data. If you see a trend in the wrong direction, you can spot it in real time and adjust accordingly. You can’t really do that on a manual rig.”

He speaks with certainty about the safety and performance gains of new drillships like the Maersk Valiant, which is currently in the Gulf of Mexico on a three-year contract with Marathon Oil and ConocoPhillips.

“It’s a huge difference. You feel safer and people are clearly in the correct place,” says Evans, who comes from Mississippi and worked on an older rig with a manually operated drill floor until recently. His work may be less demanding physically now, but it still requires perfect attention.

Making the difference
With oil companies cutting back on spending, the top-class performance of new drillships like the Maersk Valiant is crucial to keeping the business ticking over with new contracts.

Reaching 3500
The driller and assistant driller swap observations as they monitor screens showing depth, pit volumes and pump pressure.

With a dual derrick setup, one side can continue drilling while the other conducts offline operations such as building stands of pipe, thereby maximising the time spent working on the well.

“Our new technology is performing admirably, and this is the differentiating factor for customers when oil prices are so low,” says Maersk Drilling’s Chief Commercial Officer Ana Zambelli. “We developed state of the art drillships that are operated by well-trained and competent crews, and our services are allowing us to build up a good contract backlog in such a tough market.”

Top of the range
Maersk Drilling has four new ultra deepwater drillships like the Maersk Valiant in its fleet and three XLE jackup rigs, designed for ultra harsh environments, with a fourth due for delivery in 2016.

To build them, designers took the best of what they already had and scaled it up in size to match the bigger hardware, installed measures to improve efficiency and introduced a proactive hiring policy to ensure crews were up to speed from the first day of operations.

“It’s actually quite a challenge because it’s such a range of technology. None of us can be experts on all of it. So, you have to rely on your specialists and team leaders,” says Craig Fraser, the Offshore Installation Manager.

“It’s a demanding industry. Clients want performance and the oil market demands that even more,” Fraser says. “Our clients are always challenging us to improve and I believe that while they always demand more, they get a high-end product.”