1 April 2023 - 21:53
  • News ID: 470625
SeaPad vessel supports 18 South Pars platforms

The SeaPad logistics platform is located 105km off Assaluyeh, which is tasked with providing logistic and operational support to 18 South Pars platforms that totally produce 350 mcm/d gas. Nearly 100 persons work on SeaPad to make sure gas flow from the giant offshore gas reservoir would not halt.

Amid a treacherous winter with record gas consumption in Iran, we entered the SeaPad support platform, which is also called Zone 2 Vessel. We were flown in by helicopter for 30 minutes to reach the platform. There was no bird in the sky and the sea waves hit the platform with a wavy movement. South Pars Phase 9 platform, which produces 28 mcm/d of gas, is located right in front of us. The logistics manager of the platform was checking the air temperature and said fuel and other necessities of the platforms should be delivered to the service workers.

18 SP platforms

The SeaPad platform started out in 2020, covering 105km off the Persian Gulf. It has a small yard within itself. More than 100 specialists are monitoring the operation of 18 platforms round the clock to keep gas flowing.

Welding and turning sites, instrument repair and painting facilities are all installed on the vessel. Abbas Shams, deputy head of SeaPad, said: “In case the platforms need any reparation we should do it in the shortest possible time. If we see it impossible to conduct reparation offshore we have to move the equipment onshore immediately.”

“With the vessels at our disposal, we support platforms by providing fuel and food and whatever else the staff may need on the platforms,” he added.

Shams was speaking about the location of the vessel which started trembling after waves struck the hull. “Sometimes, the weather is too bad to allow for logistic support by vessel or helicopter. We have to wait for the sea to calm down,” he said.

Ever since this vessel was launched, fuel and food supply to platforms has been planned so that production would not be interrupted even if climate conditions become unfavorable for one week.

Shams, who has been working on South Pars platforms since 2005, said: “However, we have plans for tough weather conditions.”

Platforms repair offshore

However, that is not all this vessel is doing. Here is a small yard for the reparation of items required by the platform. Shams said 80% of components of platforms is repaired on the vessel.

Alongside reparation work, regular inspection of the platforms is also an obligation for the staff on the platform to fulfill. The farthest platform from the SeaPad is four hours away from the vessel. The inspections are carried out on a daily basis. Sometimes, repair task is needed to be done on the platform, regardless of whether being hot or cold. Highly humid warm weather has its own difficulties while climate changes in autumn and winter have their own challenges. However, the point is that the work is never stopped.

In parallel with these inspections, there is annual overhaul. In winter, domestic and business gas consumption goes up. The South Pars gas field is currently supplying 75% of Iran’s gas needs. Overhaul is often carried out in summer so that production trend would go on smoothly in winter.

Shams said: “In order to optimize overhaul, we have to arrange with the refineries in order to suspend the platform’s gas production when gas consumption declines in order to proceed with overhaul.”

Safe and stable production

However, it would make no difference for those working on platforms or supporting them to work in winter or summer because in winter, gas is often consumed by households and businesses while in winter it feeds power plants. Shams said what matters is to have safe and stable production.

Overhaul often starts in April and goes on until September. “In spring and winter, climate conditions are favorable and we can cover the platforms more effectively. Therefore, we implement overhaul in the shortest possible time and with maximum quality. Overhaul is often done by 20-member teams,” said Shams.

In winter, the most important job for those working on this vessel is to guarantee the nominal production of each platform. By regular monitoring of these platforms, assurance is made that the equipment has not been damaged.

The weather condition is favorable in South Pars for about two-thirds of a year. Shams said only two or three days it may become impossible to work on platforms. That may happen when even helicopters would be of no help and climate conditions should become favorable first.

Reverse engineering

We stepped onto the vessel. Everywhere was wet due to rainfall and the sky was covered with black clouds. The weather is set to become worse. We enter the repair site. There are a variety of devices and components there. One engineer is perusing a map and another one checking a component. Hossein Sedaqati, a drawing technician, said: “This is self-sufficiency work. In addition to reparation, we do reverse engineering.”

He said he has been working on reverse engineering for 18 years, adding that he has done it on more than 20,000 items so far. Sedaqati has been working on South Pars platforms for six years now.

Until 10 years ago, the parts that experienced problem on platforms had to be sent to the countries of origin for reparation. Repairing parts in platforms or vessels meant nothing and nobody expected Iranians to do so. But as sanctions were tightened against Iran’s petroleum industry, Iranians started building platforms and its parts and then even learnt how to repair them in the country.

What Sedaqati is doing in this vessel is apparently simple, but the fact is that sanctions have deprived Iranians of access to many parts or technical know-how for production. Therefore, they have to manufacture parts through reverse engineering, but at higher standards. It should be kept in mind that the first mistake in the sea would be also the last one.

Showing a valve part, Sedaqati said: “With sanctions in place, if we were to order this part from its manufacturer it would last two years to get it. But now I repair it in a single day by applying reverse engineering.”

No foreigner on platforms

Majid Qorbani, head of reparation and instruments in SeaPad, said: “Instruments function like the brain for the platform. We need to control the activity of platforms. Sometimes we have to move onto the platforms to repair the control equipment and sometimes we need to bring the parts here for repair.”

Asked what if reparation fails, he said: “What would happen if the brain stops working? The entire body will come to a halt. Without repairing the instruments, the process of gas production will hit snags. We feel compelled to not let this happen.”

Qorbani with 22 years of experience in the petroleum industry has been working on this platform for 17 years now. He has worked alongside France’s Total in South Pars. But he noted that no foreigner has been on the platforms since 2006. “We are all Iranians. We have become so skilled in manufacturing and repairing platform parts that we no longer need to have even a single foreigner with us.”

He recalls days when foreign engineers were required even for simple reparations and Iranians did not believe in their own capabilities. “We imagined we would never be able to repair anything. It was rather a dream for us to building our own platforms. But today, everything is real.”

Then we go to the section wherein corroded parts are gathered. A young engineer is busy painting the corroded equipment. “To do so we have to first scrape off rust. After we reach an ideal level we would apply the layers of painting,” he said.

Each weather condition requires some certain type of paint. These paints are bought from companies approved by National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). When the equipment is painted, it is immune to rusting for two years.

The platform’s jacks should be also scraped off rust. The painter said: “There is oxygen shortage in the water and when the water strikes the jacks, metals are corroded. We have to dive for painting. If we don’t monitor the corrosion of the platforms’ jacks, they are likely to collapse.”

When we leave the painting section, rainfall has become faster. The platform of SP19 is shining like a star in darkness. Seabirds are flying. The scene is at times beautiful and horrible. It is blowing and the wind is likely to take me away if it becomes stronger. However, the platform is producing without being affected by rainfall and wind. I had never experienced stormy weather at sea. The rainfall picks up pace very soon. Sadeq Igdar, the logistics chief, said: “In some nights, the rain and storm are so strong that we think the rainfall would not stop for several days. But, several hours later, everything is back to normal as a mysterious silence dominates the sea.”

I liked so much to walk in the darkness and watch the rainfall, but Igdar did not let me, saying: “The rainfall and the wind are likely to push you into water. Such climate conditions are unpredictable.”

Then we go into the electricity generation section. One engineer there tells us: “We offer secondary support to the platforms to produce and distribute electricity and we also repair electrical motors.”

“When the generators are off and there is no diesel, production stops. We should not let that happen. In some cases, we have only five minutes to repair the equipment in question,” he said.
Asked if it was easy to deal with 18 gas platforms, he said: “I don’t say it is easy as we have to be ready round the clock to resolve any problems that may occur out of the blue. But it is not too tough to be impossible.”

He added: “I also know that we are more skilled than the Qataris working in North Dome because they depend on Western experts for most of their activities. But we are doing our job on our own.”

Our one-day trip to South Pars to visit various sections of the SeaPad logistics vessel comes to an end. Just before the flight, it was raining heavily. I first thought we had to stay at least three days at sea, but as Igdar had said the rain came to an end after one hour and the sky became clear. It were as if no rain had come. I could see other South Pars platforms than the platform of SP9. South Pars was experiencing a spring weather while everywhere else across Iran gas consumption was smashing records. However, due to relentless work in South Pars, no gas halt was reported in Iran.

South Pars is jointly owned by Iran and Qatar. Thirty percent of this supergiant offshore gas reservoir lies in Iran’s territorial waters. The rest lies in Qatar, where it is known as North Dome. Iran started gas recovery from South Pars in 2002, ten years after Qatar. Iran has so far invested about $81 billion in developing 24 phases of South Pars. The current gas production capacity of South Pars stands at 705 mcm/d. South Pars has currently 13 refineries and 37 production platforms. The SPQ1 platform supports 18 South Pars platforms. With the development of other South Pars phases in recent years and the addition of 10 new phases to the gas field, the SeaPad vessel become operational in 2020 in support of SPQ1 for new platforms.

By Negar Sadeqi

Iran Petroleum

News ID 470625


Your Comment

You are replying to: .
0 + 0 =