Petrobras claims P-34 FPSO listing won't prevent production hike in 2002, reports vessel recovery progress

By an OGJ correspondent

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct. 16 -- Despite Sunday's electronic failure that caused the P-34 floating production, storage, and offloading vessel off Brazil to suddenly list at 32°, interrupting oil and gas production, Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) said that the accident will not prevent the company from hiking oil production this year.

Meantime, the state oil company at presstime was making progress in its attempts to right the vessel again, although it offered no predictions as to when production would resume via the FPSO.

The initial forecast was that Petrobras would achieve output of 1.49 b/d million of oil by yearend, but production now is expected to reach 1.51 million b/d, according to Jose Coutinho Barbosa, Petrobras exploration and production director. The target for oil output in 2003 will be disclosed in December.

The accident with the P-34 does not affect the oil production target for this year, because there are only 2½ months left to yearend, which minimizes the impact of the loss of 34,000 b/d of 25° gravity crude oil production that the P-34 was handling. The oil is produced from the Barracuda-Caratinga fields complex in the Campos basin off Rio de Janeiro state.

Earlier this week, the FPSO was evacuated after an apparent electrical failure affected pumps and ballast equipment, in turn causing the vessel to list at 32° and put it in danger of sinking (OGJ Online, Oct. 14, 2002).

Recovery efforts
Petrobras successfully connected a pipeline from one of the P-34's starboard tanks to a service tug designed for collecting and pumping seawater. The vessel's list has been reduced to 17° today from 32° on Sunday by pumping 4,300 cu m of seawater into the tank.

Another support vessel is on site with seven specialists who entered the FPSO and closed valves and isolated the tanks prior to beginning pumping seawater to stabilize the P-34.

Petrobras contracted the Dutch salvage company Wijsmüller to work with its own rescue team on salvage efforts. In addition, Rio de Janeiro's oil union, Sindipetro, formally requested that Petrobras allow its own specialists to also participate in the rescue efforts.

When the vessel achieves an inclination of 10°, Petrobras will try to restart its onboard electrical system after ensuring that there is no risk of explosion from possible hydrocarbon leaks. Petrobras earlier reported that there has been no structural damage to the vessel.

Carlos Tadeu Fraga, a Petrobras exploration and production manager, admitted that there is still a risk of the P-34 sinking, "but less than yesterday or the day before yesterday. I will only guarantee that the (P-34) is completely risk-free is when it is completely stabilized."

Petrobras specialists worked all day Tuesday with computer simulations, choosing the best option to prevent the vessel from sinking. They decided to pump 5 million l. of water into the converted tanker's empty, starboard tank in a bid to reduce keeling and right the vessel.

Fernando Carvalho, Sindipetro director, said that the quantity of oil stored in the FPSO was not sufficient to cause the P-34 to keel over in half an hour. On Sunday, the FPSO listed so quickly that 30 members of the crew had to jump into the sea, fearing that its would overturn completely.

Up to now the cause of the incident is unknown, although a major fault in the electrical system is being analyzed. It is not clear how the power blackout affected the tanks in a way that caused the ship to list.

A Petrobras official who requested anonymity told OGJ that he estimates that it will take 2 weeks to recover the vessel.

The $200 million, 17,900 ton FPSO lies between Barracuda and Caratinga fields in 2,800 ft of water 50 miles off Rio de Janeiro state.

Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira, a top Petrobras official, told OGJ that the P-34 was insured for $140 million but declined to reveal the name of the insurance company. Market sources contacted by OGJ expressed puzzlement as to the low level of the insurance.

Petrobras is losing around $1 million/day due to the interruption of production, say specialists contacted by OGJ.

Output hike
Petrobras said that two new Campos basin production systems will begin to operate by the end of this year.

The Seillean FPSO will be connected to the recently discovered Jubarte oil field. Jubarte is expected to produce 13,000-15,000 b/d of oil, but Petrobras faces a daunting task in producing Jubarte crude, which is low gravity and produces from 1,400 m of water.

In November, the Brasil FPSO will be connected to wells in Roncador giant field, where the wells have been shut in since the sinking of the P-36 semisubmersible platform in 2001 (OGJ Online, Mar. 15, 2001).

Production at Roncador field will ramp up again until it reaches 90,000 b/d of oil within 6 months.

At yearend 2003 Petrobras expects to boost production further with installation of the new P-43 and P-48 FPSOs in Barracuda and Caratinga fields. The P-34, located between these two fields, was installed in September 1997.

The P-43 and the P-48 will each have production-handling capacity of 150,000 b/d of oil. Total combined output from the two fields Petrobras expects combined production from Barracuda-Caratinga to reach 247,000 b/d of oil and 3.4 million cu m/day of natural gas by 2004-05.

Accordingly, by 2005 Petrobras expects to become almost self-sufficient with production of 2.2 million boe/d.

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