South African engineers reel out innovative technology for booming global deep sea oil and gas industry

The world’s oceans have become prime territory in the booming offshore oil and gas and mining industries, as new deposits are discovered and improvements in technology make the ocean depths more accessible.

Marine and Mineral Projects (MMP), a South African firm of hi-tech marine engineers, has recognised the growth in the offshore market and responded by developing a world-leading range of technological solutions for offshore oil and gas support vessels.

Using their outstanding subsea crawler, launch & recovery and mooring system technology which is currently used in deep sea diamond mining, MMP has developed a cost and time-saving, innovative Multi Reel Drive System for laying pipelines and umbilicals in the oil and gas industry.

“We have a solid foundation from years of experience with launch and recovery systems,” says Rodney Norman, managing director of MMP, “and so were able to identify opportunities to improve on existing technology – MMP never accepts conventional technology, but rather asks how it can be done better.”

“A recent project we tackled was the development of an innovative Multi Reel Drive System for the Normand7, which allows the vessel to come in to port and load up new reels in a matter of 24 hours as opposed to the currently accepted norm of three to four days!”

According to Norman, instead of the standard single reel drive system, or carousel, being used on a lay vessel to lay pipelines, MMP has developed an alternative Multi Reel Drive System that allows for as many as ten reels to be loaded in two rows of five and the Drive System moves from reel to reel rather than the norm of loading the reel into the Reel Drive System.

“The two innovations introduced”, explains Norman, “result in significant time saving to the laying operation – and, as anyone in the industry will attest to – missed deadlines incur serious penalties.”

“Marine and Mineral Projects recently secured the contract to build a Dive Handling System for the Atlantic7, a new build Diver Support Vessel. “Once again we examined the suitability of the traditional dive handling system and found ways to improve on it,” Norman says. “This resulted in tighter integration into the vessel and reduction in operational complexity.”

MMP’s track record shows the development of unique technology utilised for the mining of diamonds on the ocean floor through the use of a remote sub sea crawler. “This technology,” says Norman, “and specifically the launch and recovery system designed for this 300 ton crawler, one of which was recently developed for the De Beers mining vessel, Peace In Africa, can be adapted to suite several opportunities in the deep sea oil and gas industry.”

“The sub sea crawler technology together with its launch & recovery system can be used for clearing the sea bed down to bedrock for Glory Holes and cleaning up the sea bed after drilling is completed. The heavy lift launch & recovery system can be adapted to place well-heads on the sea bed. Additionally, our subsea crawlers can also be adapted for cutting trenches.”

Marine and Mineral Projects is a relative newcomer to the deep sea oil and gas industry but in a very short space of time they have proved that they develop solutions that guarantee a job expertly done.

“We would like to change the misconception that no one in South Africa can offer this kind of technology or these kinds of innovative solutions – Marine and Mineral Projects can, and are competing successfully on a global scale,” concludes Norman.

About the offshore oil and gas boom:
According to Offshore magazine and The World Deepwater Market Forecast, published by energy analysts Douglas-Westwood, continued growth is expected in the deepwater oil and gas sector with annual expenditures reaching over $24.6 billion by 2012. Key findings indicate that an enormous amount of activity lies ahead. Deepwater oil and gas production is increasing rapidly, and output is expected to increase by almost 80% from now to 2011.

Deepwater oil production now accounts for almost 15% of total offshore oil and gas production globally. Africa is the leading deepwater development area over the 2008-2012 period, accounting for nearly 40% of the global deepwater spend.

*Source: The World Offshore Oil & Gas Forecast 2007-2011, Douglas-Westwood (Energyfiles Ltd.)