Watching The World: Swordfish? Not likely!

Feb. 8, 2010
The oil and gas industry does not usually have to worry too much about swordfish, but might that situation have to change after reports from Angola last week?

The oil and gas industry does not usually have to worry too much about swordfish, but might that situation have to change after reports from Angola last week?

Traders there said a school of swordfish created force majeure after puncturing a flexible loading pipeline feeding oil to tankers from the 200,000-b/d Girassol field.

"Total confirms that a force majeure was declared," said a company spokeswoman, adding, "There have been delays in the loading of tankers, but the loading was not halted."

Traders said it was not the first time swordfish had interrupted Angola's oil and gas industry, citing a similar situation in January 2009 when BP PLC shut oil production from its Greater Plutonio fields off Angola "for operational issues."

Force majeure

BP declared "force majeure" on Plutonio oil exports as a result of the shutdown, where oil and gas production had restarted in mid-October following a previous production halt in mid-August after an incident at a gas plant at the facility.

No one at BP has ever detailed publicly what the incident may have been, but neither does anyone at the British firm ever mention swordfish in connection with the shutdown at Plutonio.

Still, even in the absence of any mention of swordfish at Plutonio, there is a possible—and fascinating—connection with the current problems faced by Total at Girassol.

Around the time of the shutdown at Plutonio in August 2008, Subsea 7 Inc. confirmed that it had agreed to a $150 million pipeline engineering, construction, and installation contract for a gas export pipeline project for BP.

Enter Subsea 7

Subsea 7 said its workscope was to engineer, construct, and install a 74-km, 12-in. gas line from Block 18 to a gas delivery line on Block 3.

In addition, Subsea 7 was to perform the tie-in of the lines, including installing three client-supplied subsea manifold systems and a 1,000-m umbilical before carrying out the final commissioning of the completed gas export system.

Back to the present: The so-called "swordfish" incident came a week or two after Subsea 7 reported the successful completion of the Girassol line repair project for Total E&P Angola.

The project was an entirely diverless pipeline repair in 1,350 m of water and was based on a technical design competition issued by Total that resulted in Subsea 7 being awarded the contract for the design, manufacture, testing, and operation of a new deepwater pipeline repair system (PRS).

The PRS would then be used on the repair of a damaged 12-in. water-injection line in Girassol field. According to Subsea 7, final confirmation of the repair was achieved by a line leak test from the Girassol floating production, storage, and offloading vessel that was completed in December 2009.

Swordfish? Using Occam's Razor, where entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity, the simpler explanation would be: pipeline leak.

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