New Mini-platform Seeks to Improve Efficiency

By Kathryn Stone 2015-06-17 17:09:20

A new unmanned mini-platform concept design has begun to produce natural gas in the North Sea.

The new generation “Minimum Facility” L6-B platform was created by Wintershall, a subsidiary of German-base BASF, and is specifically designed to increase economic returns. The new concept cuts costs down to nearly half of a conventional satellite platform, in large part due to its simple, minimalist design.

“The advantage of this new generation of platforms is that they can be deployed in particularly shallow waters and can economically produce even from very small natural gas fields. Furthermore, they can cut down on costs thanks to the short time needed for construction and the simple installation,” Wintershall said in a statement.

The L6-B facility was built in nine months and then transferred last June to its current location in a Dutch-owned region of the North Sea.

The mini-platform is completely controlled, operated and supplied with electricity from the larger L8-P4 platform. It is capable of maintaining two producing wells, with gas produced by the mini facility transferred to the neighboring platform via pipeline.

The company claims that the new design may be the smallest top side known, rising up only 18 meters (59 feet) from the sea. The platform is secured to the seafloor with suction piles and is made up of three upper decks. In total the substructure weighs in at 1,100 tons, and the top side comes in at a meager 100 tons.

The mini-platform gets its name from the L6-B gas field in which it is located. The field falls within a restricted military zone, with Wintershall being the first company allowed to operate in the area.

Wintershall purports to be one of the largest gas producers in the southern North Sea with 25 offshore platforms. The company has said that it plans to increase output by 40 percent over the next three years with the North Sea as a key area of operations.


U.S. Gives Shell Green Light for Acquisition of Rival

By Reuters 2015-06-17 14:42:56

U.S. regulators have given the green light for Royal Dutch Shell’s proposed $70 billion acquisition of British rival BG Group the first clearance for the biggest deal in the energy sector in over a decade.

The two companies said on Tuesday the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had cleared the deal.

The deal, which the companies aim to complete by early 2016, will require further regulatory clearances from all the countries BG operates in, including the European Union, China, Australia and Brazil.

“We’re well underway with the anti-trust and regulatory filing processes in relevant jurisdictions around the world and we’re confident that, following the usual thorough and professional review by the relevant authorities, the deal will receive the necessary approvals,” Shell Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said in a statement.

“We remain on track for completion in early 2016,” he added.

Van Beurden has visited in recent weeks Trinidad, Brazil, Kazakhstan and China to discuss the deal.

The deal, which followed the near halving of oil prices since last June, was expected to spark a flurry of mergers and acquisitions in the energy industry, but so far few deals have been announced.

The third-biggest oil and gas deal ever by enterprise value will bring Shell assets in Brazil, East Africa, Australia, Kazakhstan and Egypt. BG has some of the world’s most ambitious projects in liquefied natural gas (LNG), where demand is growing as consumers turn away from more polluting fuels such as coal.


Increased Arctic Acidity May Impact Marine Animals

By MarEx 2015-06-17 12:35:03

New research by NOAA, University of Alaska, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the journal Oceanography shows that surface waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas could reach levels of acidity that threaten the ability of animals to build and maintain their shells by 2030, with the Bering Sea reaching this level of acidity by 2044.

“Our research shows that within 15 years, the chemistry of these waters may no longer be saturated with enough calcium carbonate for a number of animals from tiny sea snails to Alaska King crabs to construct and maintain their shells at certain times of the year,” said Jeremy Mathis, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and lead author. “This change due to ocean acidification would not only affect shell-building animals but could ripple through the marine ecosystem.”

A team of scientists led by Mathis and Jessica Cross from the University of Alaska Fairbanks collected observations on water temperature, salinity and dissolved carbon during two month-long expeditions to the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas onboard United States Coast Guard cutter Healy in 2011 and 2012.

These data were used to validate a predictive model for the region that calculates the change over time in the amount of calcium and carbonate ions dissolved in seawater, an important indicator of ocean acidification. The model suggests these levels will drop below the current range in 2025 for the Beaufort Sea, 2027 for the Chukchi Sea and 2044 for the Bering Sea. “A key advance of this study was combining the power of field observations with numerical models to better predict the future,” said Scott Doney, a coauthor of the study and a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

A form of calcium carbonate in the ocean, called aragonite, is used by animals to construct and maintain shells. When calcium and carbonate ion concentrations slip below tolerable levels, aragonite shells can begin to dissolve, particularly at early life stages. As the water chemistry slips below the present-day range, which varies by season, shell-building organisms and the fish that depend on these species for food can be affected.

This region is home to some of our nation’s most valuable commercial and subsistence fisheries. NOAA’s latest Fisheries of the United States report estimates that nearly 60 percent of U.S. commercial fisheries landings by weight are harvested in Alaska. These 5.8 billion pounds brought in $1.9 billion in wholesale values or one third of all landings by value in the U.S. in 2013.

The continental shelves of the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are especially vulnerable to the effects of ocean acidification because the absorption of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions is not the only process contributing to acidity. Melting glaciers, upwelling of carbon-dioxide rich deep waters, freshwater input from rivers and the fact that cold water absorbs more carbon dioxide than warmer waters exacerbates ocean acidification in this region.

“The Pacific-Arctic region, because of its vulnerability to ocean acidification, gives us an early glimpse of how the global ocean will respond to increased human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, which are being absorbed by our ocean,” said Mathis. “Increasing our observations in this area will help us develop the environmental information needed by policy makers and industry to address the growing challenges of ocean acidification.”

Go online here to read the research paper, Ocean Acidification in the Surface Waters of the Pacific-Arctic Boundary Regions, in Oceanography


USCG unveils maritime cyber scheme

Developing guidance for commercial vessels and port terminal operators on identifying cyber-attack risks is one of the objectives of the US Coast Guard’s cyber-security plan.
The agency’s Cyber Strategy, unveiled by USCG Commandant Paul Zukunft on 16 June, will guide the coastguard’s cyber efforts

Pirates Attack Three Ships in Three Hours

By Kathryn Stone 2015-06-17 11:25:30

Three ships underway in the eastbound lane of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS) were attacked by pirates within a three hour window early June 17.

The incidents occurred within a 10 nautical mile zone around Pulau Takong Kecil in Indonesia between 2:30 am and 5:30 am. The first two vessels attacked, the Densa Shark, a Brazil-registered bulk carrier and the Pro Triumph a Norway registered LNG tanker quickly raised the alarm. The crews conducted searches and found nothing missing and no perpetuators onboard.

The final attack was reported aboard the Panama-registered Pro-triumph tanker. Five assailants tied up the Chief Engineer and First Engineer and stole parts from the ship’s generator. The pirates fled the scene after the crew raised the alarm to local authorities.

All of the attacks reported between three to five pirates in the engine room, indicating the ship’s spare engine parts were the focus of the attacks. Given the close timing and proximity of the incidents, it is possible that pirates could be from the same group. However, this has yet to be verified by authorities. Additionally, the vessels may have been targeted because they were navigating at a slower speed while making a turn.

According to anti-piracy watchdog ReCAAP, today’s incidents fall under the category of ‘petty theft’. Petty theft has risen over 88% from the same reporting period last year. So far this year ReCAAP has reported dramatic spikes in both ‘very significant’ and ‘minimum significant’ instances of piracy.

ReCAAP has again reiterated that all vessels operating in the SOMS should exercise enhanced vigilance and take additional precautionary measures to prevent boardings. The organization also repeated its call for the countries around the SOMS to increase maritime surveillance and patrols.

22 Still Missing in Vessel Hijacking

The news of today’s attacks comes as 22 mariners remain missing following the hijacking of the Orkim Harmony product tanker.

So far no signals or transmissions from the missing vessel have been received. The 7,301 dwt Orkim Harmony fell out of communication around 9:00pm June 11, while transporting around 6,000 metric tons of petrol. Though no ransom demands have been made, it is believed the vessel was seized for its RON 95 gasoline cargo.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) deputy director-general Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar has confirmed that six aircrafts are now involved in the search for the missing ship and it crew. A seventh aircraft from the United States is expected to join the search operation later this week. The aircraft are in addition to eight ships and three boats that are already canvasing the seas. Satellites are also being used to aid in the search.

The MMEA has confirmed that the ship did not sink, since none of the onboard automatic sensors were triggered. Ahmad Puzi has vowed to continue search efforts until the missing tanker is found.