The Value Proposition of Float-Over Technology
Since its inception, the float-over deck installation concept has continued to gain acceptance as an alternative for regular heavy lift installation, which is the traditional approach to lifting topsides onto the support structure or jacket by a floating crane. However, proponents of float- over technology have to convince the oil companies that offshore installation with crane vessels is old-fashioned and costly, and that their method is cheaper, faster and better. The main arguments include eliminating the need for costly heavy crane vessels, the advantages of platform completion at the fabrication yard as opposed to offshore module installation and integration, the expansion of topside weight limits for single stage installation, and the fact that topside installation by traditional heavy lift can also use up a large amount of the fatigue life of a structure, which is not an issue with float-over installations.
As the cost competitiveness of float-over technology across an expanding range of topside tonnage sizes continues to gradually overtake heavy lift installation, the technology is quickly embraced in places like the Far East and West Africa, but according to Jaap Meij, Vice President Sales Offshore Projects at Dockwise, the adoption process in countries like Mexico and Brazil is going to be much slower, and convincing Pemex is synonymous with proving that float-over technology is cheaper than heavy lift installations in certain situations.
In order to adopt float-over installation techniques in Mexico, Pemex would have to change the platform design it has used for decades. Dockwise’s acquisition of Ocean Dynamics, one of only three companies that design deepwater jackets for applications in water depth exceeding 120m, indicates that the company is serious about pushing the potential market for float-over installations since much of Pemex’s current and upcoming drilling activity is in water of approximately 140m depth. Jaap Meij explains his company’s challenge to bring float-over technology to Mexican waters: “To get Pemex to change their jacket design that has been used for thirty years is a big deal. But, eventually, even Pemex has to look outside the box and realize that maybe there is a better, innovative way that saves time and money, improves safety, and involves less offshore hookup time, fewer people and less exposure.”
From an operational point of view, the crucial challenge in the float-over process is transferring the topside weight from the barge to the jacket, which must be done in a controlled manner without causing damage to either structure while waves, currents and winds move the barge. Even though float-over installations are less sensitive to the impact of inclement weather than heavy lift installations, Dockwise acquired Offshore Kinematics in 2007 to integrate its elastomeric shock absorbing technology and decades of experience in the float-over industry into its value proposition. “We now have the engineering and shipping capabilities and offshore experience, and we will continue bringing together the right elements to be a 360° float-over company,” Dockwise’s Director for Mexico, CA and Caribbean Alfonso Wilson said. We now have to convince Pemex to embrace the technology. If we are able to prove to Pemex that we can provide them with innovative technology at the same cost or lower as their existing installation techniques, then we will have a clear entry point for float-over technology in Mexico,” Wilson said.