After proving its worth on previous jacket foundation installations in the Etame Marin block, offshore Gabon, LDD managed to secure direct entry into the piling-services contract for operator VAALCO Etame (Gabon) on the third and fourth jackets.
“When VAALCO started looking at putting in these two jackets, the company contacted us directly and said it wanted us on the project. We helped them with the pile design before they went out to tender and we were written into the tender documents as their nominated supplier to ensure our involvement,” explains Jason Clark, founder and managing director, LDD Group.
This meant that the chosen main contractor, EMAS AMC, automatically awarded LDD the specialist piling work. LDD went on to provide drilling, grouting and pile handling equipment, and experienced personnel support as part of a very successful partnership.
“The LDD project team worked extremely well with the EMAS team on a very significant part of our Southeast Etame/North Tchibala platform installation. The work was executed safely and the offshore team should be commended for their work. EMAS looks forward to an opportunity to work with LDD again,” comments Tom O’Malley, project manager, EMAS.
LDD worked with EMAS AMC to install four 48-in. piles for each of the two jackets. The piles were 140 m long and penetrated about 42 m below the mudline. The teams worked off EMAS’ new flagship vessel, the Lewek Constellation. The Lewek Constellation is an ice-class, high-end, multi-lay offshore construction vessel with ultra-deepwater pipelaying and lifting capabilities (3000-t crane).
LDD also contracted Acteon sister company LM Handling to provide a 24–48-in. adjustable, 600-t safe-working load internal lift tool for lifting the 1220-mm diameter pile sections and an LDD-designed 600-t jacket-levelling tool, which freed the installation vessel’s main crane for other work. The levelling tool was “box fresh” for the project and “worked faultlessly” says Clark.
Other pieces of kit also used for the first time on this job included the LDD designed and built LD2500 offshore reverse-circulation piling drill and pressure grouting caps designed specifically for this project. These grouting bungs seal the top of the pile using inflatable bladder packers and allow an internal pressure of up to 450 psi to be maintained. They can help to accelerate the set-up time before grouting the pile into the rock socket. Previously, customers had to weld a big steel sealing plate into the top of the pile before grouting could begin, which could take 6 h or more per pile. With the new bungs taking only about 30 min to install, they potentially saved about 44 h of set-up time.
The LD2500 pile-top drilling rig drilled a 1350-mm-diameter underreamed socket below the toe of the pile into which the pile could be lowered and pressure grouted in place. The equipment has a deck that tilts by up to 18.5° for safe operation on raking piles and its modular design greatly assisted with shipping in standard ISO containers.
LDD also used its designed and built HC60 StabLift passive heave compensator to help overcome the challenge of putting equipment on and off a fixed jacket from a floating platform. This heave-compensating device sits between the hook of the crane and the load that is being lifted and is used to mitigate risk for sensitive lifting operations during bottomhole assembly.
“We used this piece of equipment for the first time for VAALCO on an earlier jacket installation project and, as a result of its performance then, VAALCO stipulated in this contract that we should use it again here,” says Clark.
“After using the HC60 StabLift passive heave compensator on this latest project, EMAS was so impressed with it that they asked to keep it after our work had finished to use on their marine lifts for the placement of the topside.”
Because of the remote working environment offshore Gabon, LDD also took a large suite of spare equipment to ensure that any problem could be quickly rectified without affecting the project schedule. “We are masters in this work and fully understand all the risks of breakdown, which are particularly challenging in remote locations. A factor in our expertise is understanding the right level of spares management to bring to a project of this nature,” explains Clark. LDD took two spare power swivels, spare power packs and a spare drillstring, but did not have to use any of it, as all the original equipment worked well.
As well as providing high-performing equipment, LDD’s expertise in mobilising and organising people and tools from all over the world also proved important for this project. When another contractor accidently damaged one of LDD’s internal lift tools, LDD was able to source another one in Singapore and charter a heavy-lift plane to take it straight to Africa. “The tool was offshore 10 days later and our client was over the moon,” says Clark.
LDD managed to install the piles ahead of schedule and without a lost-time injury, which resulted in a very happy customer. “LDD’s offshore personnel worked and behaved in a professional manner at all times and performed way beyond our expectations. I cannot praise them enough,” concludes Matthew Irick, package manager, EMAS.