New drilling rig in Azerbaijan

Vestnik Kavkaza, Energy Global
New drilling rig in Azerbaijan

The opening of Azerbaijan's new semi-submersible drilling rig, named after Heydar Aliyev, was held on the base of offshore supply and logistics base of SOCAR’s Caspian Drilling Company. The use of rigs for accelerating drilling operations in the Caspian Sea was under its control since 1970s. In 1970s-1980s, "Shelf" drilling rigs were brought to the country. During the years of independence, they were reconstructed and floating drilling rigs like "Dede Gorgud" and "Istiglal" were built. Subsequently, in order to improve drilling operations, carried out by semi-submerged "Dede Gorgud" and "Istiglal" in the deep parts of the sea, a reconstruction was carried out so that it would be possible to conduct drilling operations in the area with depth of 700 meters. Then, "Leader" drilling rig was built in 2000. It was able to drill wells in areas with water depth of 1000 meters.

Construction of the new drilling rig began on June 4, 2013, as part of a contract agreement between Caspian Drilling and Singapore company Keppel FELS. Taking into account the economic significance of this project, 90% of the financing was provided by the State Oil Fund, and 10% - by SOCAR. Construction management, control over engineering and design works, adequate supply and organization of purchases and sales, all of this was done by Caspian Drilling Company, owned by SOCAR. Construction of the facility was completed in May of 2017. The capabilities of this new rig have significantly improved, compared to the past. It's unique due to its technological features and drilling qualities, it's equipped with most modern equipment for drilling operations, including a large automatic control system. It's 106,5 meters long, 69,5 meters wide and 130 meters high, and it's total weight is 26,000 tons. Maximum depth of the well, drilled by this rig in areas with 1000 meters water depth, is 12,2 thousand meters. In addition, modern equipment allows to carry out drilling operations 4 times faster.

Semi-submersible drilling rig, named after Heydar Aliyev, became the first and the only drilling rig in the world with 1400 atmospheres system technology. Its carrying capacity is 5600, and displacement - 47500 tons displacement. Around 160 people can work at the rig. About 2400 people worked on its construction, 80 percent of which were citizens of Azerbaijan. 

As Energy Global writes in its article "Azerbaijan drilling rig expected", this drilling rig, built to Keppel FELS' proprietary DSSTM 38M design, has been customised for the Caspian Sea's harsh environment condition. It is the first modern semisubmersible to be almost completely built in Azerbaijan.

Mr Chris Ong, Acting CEO of Keppel O&M said, "The completion of this project adds to Keppel's strong track record of delivering customised value-added solutions to Azerbaijan. The DSSTM 38M design is a technologically advanced rig equipped with the latest safety and environmental features to operate efficiently in the Caspian Sea. We are proud that Keppel-designed rigs are a proven and preferred solution around the world. To meet the requirements of our customer, we were able to construct this rig almost completely in-country, a first for land-locked Azerbaijan, by leveraging the synergies of Keppel O&M's network of yards. With the trust and partnership we have developed over the years, we look forward to supporting Azerbaijan in the long-term growth of their oil and gas industry."

CSC undertook the fabrication, integration, testing and commissioning of the rig while its sister yard, Baku Shipyard (a joint-venture yard between Keppel and SOCAR), fabricated the pontoons. In Singapore, besides providing the engineering, procurement and technical support, Keppel FELS also fabricated the columns and bracings which were shipped to Baku through the narrow Volga Don canal. Equipped with well control piping, BOP handling and foundations rated for 20 000 PSI, the DSSTM 38M will be the first shallow water semisubmersible to have the capabilities to perform drilling in expanded areas of operation in the oil fields of Azerbaijan. It is able to work at a drilling depth of up to 40 000 ft and operations in 1000 m water depth. Designed to be fully moored, the rig will be able to stay in position via an 8 point wire rope mooring system which is capable of self-contained mooring up to the full range of the water depths of the Caspian Sea. Jointly developed and owned by Keppel's Deepwater Technology Group and GustoMSC, the DSSTM 38M design is an enhanced design of the successful DSSTM 38 rigs that are operating in Brazil.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called it a historic event in the oil industry of Azerbaijan: "For many years, Azerbaijan had a successful cooperation with foreign partners. Foreign companies invest in Azerbaijan, but this facility was invested by Azerbaijani state. We spend our oil revenues on different projects, including big projects like this. Both State Oil Fund and SOCAR have invested about 1 billion dollars in this project. When foreign companies invested in Azerbaijan, one of our main conditions was that their investments must help the development of our oil industry. This way, we could create jobs, raise salaries, improve professionalism and create training courses. Today our citizens successfully participate in all major oil projects and help themselves and the country."

Ilham Aliyev recalled, that in 1994, after signing the "Contract of the Century", a new era of Azerbaijan's oil industry has started: "The "Contract of the Century" and revenues from this project are the main reason for our successful development. Of course, the process of oil and gas operations continues to this day. "Shah Deniz" project is being successfully implemented since 1996. We also work on other projects. Semi-submersible drilling rig, named after Heydar Aliyev, will operate at a very promising "Absheron" gas field.

There are also other promising projects, which are currently on our agenda. One of them is "Umid, work on it is already underway. Foreign companies are interested in "Babek" and "Karabakh" projects. At one time we had contracts on these field, but they were terminated. However, today we know that there are also big reserves at the "Karabakh" field, and our foreign partners also know it. As for already implemented oil projects, today they all work successfully. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline has been operating for 11 years. The Southern Gas Corridor is being successfully implemented. Next year we plan to commission TANAP - the main part of this project."

Ilham Aliyev noted that this new giant drilling rig can carry out drilling operations anywhere: "In Soviet times, it was impossible drill at places where water depths exceeded 200 meters. Perhaps that's the reason why we managed to preserve "Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli" and "Shah Deniz" fields for independent Azerbaijan. Using this facility, we are able to carry out drilling operations anywhere, at a sea depths of up to thousands of meters."