As Culzean continues to notch up key milestones, Project Director Martin Urquhart reveals how the facilities for Maersk Oil’s North Sea megaproject are being future-proofed to deliver a truly 21st century platform.


With new projects there is a precious opportunity, pre-fabrication, to design in mitigations and efficiencies which incorporate the lessons of the past. In opting for the final Culzean design, the team has sought to minimise risk, but also leverage the early investment to reduce operational expenditure (OPEX) through the lifecycle.


“Because of the nature of dry tree high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) developments, fully automating Culzean would come with a number of unique challenges and regular human intervention is required in a number of areas, especially later in well life.


"As such, we have embraced technology that ensures we instead minimise the number of people offshore. This will allow positions that would traditionally have been on the platform to be onshore, working in a real-time collaborative environment,” enthuses Martin Urquhart, Culzean Project Director.


The driver behind that is risk mitigation and efficient operations. The highest industry risk is helicopter transportation, so the fewer personnel offshore the better. The efficiency simply comes through doing things smarter.


Today, advanced communications through software and systems, hand held devices, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags on equipment and scanners, can combine offshore to allow for monitoring and maintenance operations to be carried out, recorded and uploaded to systems instantly.















“Understandably, the focus on the capital expenditure (CAPEX) phase of a new development tends to be the most intense. But any new project with thorough front end loading will be planning facilities for the OPEX phase of the project simultaneously,” says Martin.


In the “lower for longer” cost environment, failing to build-in the ability to minimise the cost of operation once in production means missing a big opportunity. Maersk Oil’s Culzean platform has harnessed relatively new, but widely available technology to build a 21st century facility, with efficiency integrated at everystage of the design phase.


That has meant ensuring the primary critical equipment suppliers are in the chain of communication from the beginning. “We’ve taken the view that the people who know their own equipment are best placed to work with our experts on how to predictably maintain and improve the overall reliability of the equipment,” he explains.

The up-front investment in the facilities, such as in the laying of fibre-optic cables and robust and secure wi-fi networks will allow Maersk Oil to optimise production efficiency, boost uptime, and run a safer, more reliable plant.


Quality time

It is estimated that up to 20-30% of an offshore operator’s time is spent seeking data in order to be able to perform a task. That’s hours every day looking for work sheets, valve specs and procedures. Better data management on the worksite can significantly reduce this by providing real-time information.


On critical equipment on the Culzean platform, Maersk Oil will attach RFID tags. These tags, when scanned using a handheld device such as a tablet, provide the operator with all the information associated with that piece of equipment in real-time. The information will include manufacturing data and certificates, drawings, video simulation of maintenance and operations activities, maintenance history and so on.


The operator will also be able to perform routine maintenance by completing a procedure prompted by a checklist on the tablet. As the decks of Culzean will be flooded with wi-fi, any areas of non-compliance are instantly synchronised with the master data set and automatic notifications posted to the relevant operations management and support teams on and offshore. The operator can share photos and comments and these can be associated with the task and stored for future reference. Any actions generated are assigned a priority dependent on the criticality of the equipment and closure is tracked using standard reporting dashboards.


Cash conserver

“The full potential is still being mapped out, but in terms of managing quality – just in terms of being absolutely certain that the critical component being ordered is exactly what you need every single time –that alone is going to reduce unplanned downtime and that means better production efficiency over the coming decades – and that cash flow really adds up,” he says.


Applying these technology enhancements to Culzean could provide efficiency savings of at least USD10 million per annum, as the iPad and tablet joins the wrench and screwdriver as standard pieces of equipment on North Sea developments of the future.


By allowing the operator to be as efficient as possible it supports both the minimum manning philosophy, enhancing safety by reducing time on plant, and reducing cost, through greater productive tool time and better understanding of the failure patterns and inventory.


“This is a good example of the evolving relationship between operators and suppliers towards one of innovation, creativity and collaboration, rather than the purely transactional or contractual one that has historically existed. And now is the right time to be thinking hard about new models of working with each other, the time to put in place models which offer some protection against the cyclicality that is a fact of life in this industry,” concludes Martin.

The iPad and tablet will join the

wrench and screwdriver as standard

pieces of equipment on Culzean

Maersk Oil’s Culzean project is the largest UK gas field to be sanctioned for quarter of a century. Discover how this high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) mega-project will be executed.

Fibre optic communication has the power to revolutionise operations offshore.


High capacity broadband access enables faster and improved decision making, increased efficiency and major cost savings.


“The volume of data our smart platform will generate demands a subsea fibre optic cable, which allows for instant distribution of critical data from offshore operations. It will mean we can benefit from our own, and key equipment vendor’s global expertise without the need for these experts to be physically offshore.”

Martin Urquhart, Culzean Project Director, Maersk Oil UK

Schat-Harding launching their new FF1200 Free Fall Lifeboat from 55 meters, which is a new World Record in Height meters. The incredible performance captured from air by helicopter at Schat-Harding facilities in Rosendal Norway summer of 2009.