Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Oil Rigs and Oceans

The world has a problem with its oil rigs. There are too many of them, and for the first time since the earliest manufacture of seaborne drilling platforms 50 or 60 years ago, decisions are being made about how and where to get rid of them in number. That there should be a sudden surplus is vexing for those invested in undersea drilling: as recently as 2010 the rigs were thought too few. Back then, had an oil company such as Shell or BP or Marathon wanted to dig down and discover what was lying beneath a particular patch of sea, it wasn’t unusual for them to wait as long as a year until an exploration company such as Transocean or Diamond or Ensco had a rig available to lease to them. It was a time of under supply. Dozens of new rigs were commissioned, and worldwide orders tripled between 2010 and 2011. But oil rigs take two or three years to build, and by the time these were ready for use, the price of oil had declined sharply, and with it the industry’s hunger to prospect – thus the oversupply. Rigs without contracts to drill were either “cold-stacked” (anchored without crew) to wait for a market recovery, or sold for demolition. More than 40 oil rigs were waved off on end-of-life voyages in 2015, according to data gathered by a Brussels-based maritime NGO called Shipbreaking Platform; up from a single dispensed-with rig, so far as the NGO knew, in 2014.

When a drilling platform is scheduled for destruction, it must go on a thousand-mile final journey to the breaker’s yard. As one rig proved when it crashed on to the rocks of a remote Scottish island, this is always a risky business

 It was night, stormy, and the oil rig Transocean Winner was somewhere in the North Atlantic on 7 August 2016 when her tow-line broke. No crew members were on board. The rig was being dragged by a tugboat called Forward, the tethered vessels charting a course out of Norway that was meant to take them on a month-long journey to Malta. Within the offices of Transocean Ltd, the oil-exploration company that owned the rig, such a journey might have been described with corporate seemliness as an “end-of-life voyage”; but in the saltier language heard offshore, the rig was “going for fucking razorblades” – for scrap, to be dismantled in a shipbreaking yard east of Malta. In that Atlantic storm, several thousand miles from her intended destination, Winner floated free. 


The 33-year-old rig had never moved with so little constraint. Winner was huge – 17,000 tonnes, like an elevated Trafalgar Square, complete with a middle derrick as tall as Nelson’s Column, her four legs the shape of castle keeps; all this was borne up in the water on a pair of barge-sized pontoons – and its positioning had always been precisely controlled. While moored, she was held in place by eight heavy anchors. At other times, she was sailed with a pilot at the helm as if she were any other ship. When contracted to drill in the North Sea, as she had been since the 1980s, boring into the bedrock for hidden reservoirs of oil, Winner’s anchors and underwater propellers worked together with her on-board computers to “dynamically position” her – that is, keep her very still. The men and women who formed Winner’s crew – drillers and engineers and geologists and divers and cleaners and cooks, most of them Norwegian – imagined this rig to have a character that would resist such checks. They nicknamed her Svanen, or Swan, because to them she was both elegant and unyielding. Scheduled as she was for destruction, Winner could not have chosen a better moment to bolt.

In the spring of 2016, for instance, at about the time Transocean was considering whether or not to decommission Winner, its drilling rival Ensco sent away two rigs that were relatively new: built in 2004, and meant to bear 30 or 40 years of graft, but hurriedly euthanised after 12. Winner, by comparison, had lived long and busily. She was launched in 1983, and in the decades since had bobbed through market downturns and upturns, through winter hurricanes and underwater blowouts, and at least two on-board deaths. For the most part, Winner’s 33 years at sea had been characterised by day after day of patient, repetitive work – the stuff that gives offshore life its rhythm and, for many, its special comfort.

.” In July 2016, Winner’s scrapping was confirmed. A Norwegian crane operator posted a message on the rig’s Facebook page: “Malta og spiker next.” Loosely translated, he meant: “Malta next, then a furnace – somewhere.” 

It is common for rigs on end-of-life voyages to be towed with their tracking systems switched off. On 3 August, Winner sent out a final blip from a fjord in southern Norway, near Stavanger, and then stopped sending a signal. The tugboat Forward then took her out into the North Sea. On 6 August, Winner entered the Atlantic, and the next day she was lost in the storm off the Hebrides. On 8 August, shortly before sunrise on the Isle of Lewis, the oil rig washed in with the tide

Her 17,000 tonnes came in on Dalmore Bay, one of the island’s prettiest beaches.

As it was, the rig collided with the headland that defined Dalmore Bay’s southern edge.

What had begun as the quiet removal of Winner from Norway – a journey scarcely noticed by anyone outside the oil business – was now a richly public event. 

Transocean company had in its fleet more rigs than any other drilling company – more than 70 in 2016 – and the earlier pruning of about a dozen of these vessels had been conducted with discretion. 
What does this to marine life and to the quality of the water? And what are the plans for the future with this large amount of steel that have a limited life span?
Is somebody thinking of that or they just go out of business and do not care about the environment and the large amount of steel left.

Nobody in this part of the country could forget what had happened in the Shetlands in the early 1990s when a tanker, Braer, foundered in a storm off the islands’ southern edge and disgorged many thousands of tonnes of crude oil into the water. There were fears of a similar spill from Winner, but the truth was that, although she was often referred to as an oil rig, Winner’s real business was mud. During her decades at sea, Winner was generally a tunneller, commissioned to bore through layers of undersea rock and sludge, after which a purpose-built tanker would float in and slurp up any finds.

It is time to think to a global strategy that have the Earth and the Oceans in mind when implementing the economical concepts. And these environmental friendly practices should be thought in schools. International corporations and government should implement business practices that protect the water and the land and the wild life and people.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/23/oil-rig-that-ran-aground-on-scottish-beach-refloated/ https://getpocket.com/explore/item/where-oil-rigs-go-to-die?utm_source=pocket-newtab

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