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Chapter 2: Types of Offshore Platforms

The types of production concepts available for deep-water production are illustrated in the following Figure 2.0

Figure 2.0 Deep-water system types

Offshore structure can be roughly divided into two typologies, which are: a. Bottom Mounted Structures (Fixed Platform) b. Floating Structures


Fixed Platform Structure Fixed platform or bottom mounted structures, with the exception of Gravity

Base Structures (GBS), are typically constructed from welded steel tubular members acting as a truss supporting the weight of the processing equipment and the environmental forces such as wind and waves. Bottom mounted structure are called fixed when their lowest natural frequency of flexure motion is above the highest frequency of significant wave excitation. Compliant bottom mounted structures are usually designed so that their lowest natural frequency of flexural motion is below the peak energy in the wave 4

spectrum. Waves, currents and wind cause these structures to deflect but the magnitude of the dynamic load is reduced. This leads to more economic structures economically feasible for greater water depth. Naming a few types of fixed platform structures, they will be five (5) types of fixed platform structures covered in this paper.

2.1.2 Jacket Structure The steel jacket type platform on a pile foundation is by far the most common kind of offshore structure and they exist worldwide. The substructure or jacket is fabricated from steel welded pipes and is pinned to the sea floor with steel piles, which are driven through pile guides on the outer members of the jacket. Many parameters influence the design of the jacket, such as required strength, fatigue, load and life cycle. The pile design results in a balanced combination of diameter, penetration, pile wall thickness and spacing. These structures generally support superstructures having 2 or 3 decks with drilling and production equipment and work over rigs as well. The use of these platforms is generally limited to a water depth of about 150-180m in the North Sea environment. Less critical environment allows the construction of taller jackets. At present the record is scored by Bullwinkle jacket installed at a 412m water depth.

Figure 2.1 North Sea Buzzard offshore platform complexes clearly showing the steel jacket structures supporting the top-side modules. The water depth is about 100 meters. [Source:]

Figure 2.2 Artists impression of typical steel jacket support structure. Shell Shearwater
platform assembly (with topside modules in place) showing module support frame, legs. [Source:]

2.1.3 Gravity Base Structure Gravity structures are offshore structures that are placed on the seafloor and held in place by their weight. These structures do not require piles or anchors. Moreover the huge bottom section is quite suited for production of and storage of oil. They are built near-shore locations or sheltered waters like fjords. Upon construction they are towed in the upright position to the final destination and submerged in place. It is often possible to carry the topside deck with the structure. Because of the nature of these platforms, they are often prone to scour of their foundation and collapse. Figure 2.3 shows that the loss in stability due to scouring affects.

Figure 2.3 Loss in stability due to scouring or liquefaction affects. [Source: ORECCA WP3 Technologies State of the Art]

Since gravity base structures require large volume and high weight, concrete has been the most common material for gravity structures.
Landing pad for passenger and light cargo helicopter

The Derrick holds drilling equipment and drill pipes The living quarters accommodate 140 peoples

90000 tons of concrete gravity structure Wells are drilled through platforms slots

Figure 2.4 Gravity Base Structure Platforms [Source:]

2.1.4 Jack-ups Platform The jack up barges is typically three-legged structures having a deck supported on their legs. The legs are made of tubular truss members. The deck is typically buoyant. The jack ups are used for exploratory drilling operation and, therefore, are designed to move from site to site towed while their weight is supported by buoyancy of their own hull. Sometime they are transported on top of a transport barge. They are called jack ups because, once at drilling site, the legs are set on the ocean

bottom and the deck is jacked up on these legs above the water line. The jack up barges behaves like the stationary platform during the drilling operation.

Figure 2.5 the jack-up rig Ensco 80 was used to drill the sidetrack well. [Source:]

2.1.5 Compliant Structures A compliant tower is similar to a traditional platform and extends from surface to the sea bottom, and it is fairly transparent to waves. However, unlikely its predecessor, a compliant tower is designed to flex with the forces of waves, wind and currents. A compliant tower (CT) is a fixed rig structure normally used for offshore production of oil or gas. The rig consists of narrow, flexible (compliant) towers and a piled foundation supporting a conventional deck for drilling and production operations. Compliant towers are designed to sustain significant lateral deflections and forces, and are typically used in water depths ranging from 1500 to 3000 feet (450 to 900m). At present the deepest is Baldpate in 580m of water. With the use of flex elements such as flex legs or axial tubes, resonance is reduced and wave forces are de-amplified. This type of rig structure can be configured to adapt to existing fabrication and installation equipment. Compared with 8

floating systems, such as Tension Leg platforms and SPARs, the production risers are conventional and are subjected to less structural demands and flexing. This flexibility allows it to operate in much deeper water, as it can absorb much of the pressure exerted on it by the wind and sea.

Figure 2.6 Baldpate Compliant Tower Structure

2.1.6 Guyed Tower A guyed tower is a slender structure made up of truss members, which rest on the ocean floor and is held in place by a symmetrical array of centenary guy lines. A guyed tower may be applicable in deep hostile waters where the loads on the gravity base or jacket type structures from the environment are prohibitively high. The guy lines typically have several segments; the upper part is lead cable, which acts as a stiff spring in moderate seas, the lower portion is a heavy chain with clump weights, which are lifted off the bottom during heavy seas and behaves as a soft spring making the tower more compliant.

Figure 2.7 Exxon's Mississippi Canyon 280-A Platform (Lena Guyed Tower) 1,000-feet of water offshore Louisiana. [Source:]



Floating Offshore Platform Offshore drilling in high water depth requires that operations be carried out

from a floating vessel, as fixed structures are not practical.

2.2.1 Semi-submersible Platform A semi-submersible obtains its buoyancy from ballasted, watertight pontoons located below the ocean surface and wave action. The operating deck can be located high above the sea level due to the good stability of the concept, and therefore the operating deck is kept well away from the waves. Structural columns connect the pontoons and operating deck.

Figure 2.8 Twin hulls semi-submersible offshore platform. [Source:]

With its hull structure submerged at a deep draft, the semi-submersible is less affected by wave loadings than a normal ship. With a small water-plane area, however, the semi-submersible is sensitive to load changes, and therefore must be carefully trimmed to maintain stability. Unlike a submarine or submersible, during normal operations, a semi-submersible vessel is never entirely underwater. 2.2.2 Spar Platform The Spar concept is a large deep draft, cylindrical floating caisson designed to support drilling and production operations. Its buoyancy is used to support facilities above the water surface. It is generally anchored to the seafloor with multiple taut mooring lines.


Spars consists of a long cylindrical outer shell with hard tanks near the top to provide buoyancy: the middle section was void, free flooding and the lower consist in soft tanks which were only used to allow horizontal flotation of the Spar during installation, and for holding the fixed ballast. Because of the length of the Spar, the Spar hull cannot be towed upright therefore; it is towed offshore on its side, ballasted to a vertical attitude and then anchored in place. The topside is not taken with the hull and is mated offshore once the Spar is in place at its site. The mooring cables are connected with pre-deployed moorings.

Figure 2.9 Technip awarded first Spar platform in Malaysia for the Kikeh field. [Source:]


Figure 2.10 Various version of Spars platform. Spars have a central chamber in the center that can be raised or lowered by changing the amount of water in the chamber. Holstein is the largest Spar platform in the world. [Source:]

2.2.3 Tension Leg Platform A Tension-leg platform or Extended Tension Leg Platform ((E)TLP) is a vertically moored floating structure normally used for the offshore production of oil and gas, and is particularly suited for water depths greater than 300 meters and less than 1500 meters. Use of tension leg platform has also been proposed for wind turbines. Tension leg platform technology preserves many of the operational advantages of a fixed platform with particular reference to production and maintenance operations while reducing the cost of production in water depth up to about 1500m. TLP are weight sensitive and may have limitations in accommodating heavy payloads.


Figure 2.11 Tension-leg Platform

2.2.4 Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) FPSOs are vessels or platforms that float in deep water. The offshore oil and gas industry uses them to process crude and natural gas after its pumped up from deep beneath the ocean floor. They may also assist in the pumping process itself. Some FPSOs are connected to land through pipelines. Others require tankers to periodically offload onboard storage tanks.

Figure 2.12 Typical FPSO diagram