Numbers are the petroleum industry’s preferred language and, for a devoted word nerd such as myself, numbers are best painted using visual comparisons. For example, how heavy is 22,000 tonnes?

I get that it is heavy in the extreme. The powers that be don’t call in the world’s largest heavy-lift vessel, Allseas Group’s Pioneering Spirit, to hoist up just any old thing. However, how many “somethings” is equivalent to 22,000 tonnes?

The answer is about 3,500 African elephants, 300 blue whales or just one drilling topsides for Equinor’s Johan Sverdrup Field, which the Pioneering Spirit successfully lifted onto its jacket in early June.

The single-lift installation of the steel structure from the Pioneering Spirit and onto the jacket was completed in 3 hours, after initial preparations were completed, according to Equinor. This installation of a new topsides was a first for a vessel initially designed to remove scrapped topsides.

The drilling topsides were lifted onto its jacket located in Equinor’s Johan Sverdrup Field by the Pioneering Spirit. (Source: Bo B Randulff/Equinor)

The lift also signaled the end of a journey that began in February 2015 when the NOK 8 billion contract was awarded to Aibel, a Stavanger-based engineering, procurement and construction company, by Equinor to build and deliver the second of four planned platforms for one of the Norwegian Continental Shelf’s (NCS) largest oil fields.

The drilling topsides comprise three modules. The main support frame, built at Aibel’s yard in Laem Chabang, Thailand, is the largest of the three platform modules. The drilling support module also was built by Aibel at its yard in Haugesund, and the derrick and associated equipment were built by project partner Nymo in Grimstad.

Heerema Marine Contractors’ semisubmersible crane vessel Thialf lifted the three modules into place during the assembly phase at Klosterfjorden in September 2017. After assembly, the platform and barge were towed to Haugesund. There, systems integration and equipment testing were performed on the highly visible landmark—standing tall at 147 m (482 ft)—for the past nine months.

Making offshore work is all about the numbers and, for Equinor and its Johan Sverdrup partners, it is a language they know well. With expected recoverable resources of between 2.1 Bboe and 3.1 Bboe, the Johan Sverdrup Field is considered one of the most important industrial projects for Norway over the next 50 years, according to the company. Equinor noted in the release that full field production is estimated to peak at 660,000 bbl/d, equivalent to 25% of all Norwegian petroleum production.

Jennifer Presley’s Drilling Technologies column originally appeared in the July 2018 edition of E&P.