Scarabeo 5 semi-submersible drilling rig; Source: Saipem

Saipem picks Chinese contractor for rig conversion work to bring FPU to life

Italy’s engineering, drilling, and construction services giant Saipem has inked a contract with China’s EPC contractor CIMC Raffles for the conversion of a semi-submersible drilling rig into a floating production unit (FPU). This rig is already in China.

Scarabeo 5 semi-submersible drilling rig; Source: Saipem

According to CIMC Raffles, this is its first order to convert a semi-submersible rig to an FPU, thus, the firm sees it as “an important milestone” in the offshore oil and gas industry while marking a new breakthrough in the firm’s oil and gas projects’ arena. The vessel being converted is a fourth-generation semi-submersible drilling rig, with a maximum operating water depth of 2,000 meters and a maximum drilling depth of 9,000 meters.

Saipem recently confirmed the deal with Eni for the conversion of the Scarabeo 5 semi-submersible drilling rig into an FPU, which is a semi-submersible production platform that receives the production fluids from wellheads riser platforms, separates the gas from liquids and boosts the gas to feed the nearby floating LNG (FLNG) unit.

CIMC Raffles’ main conversion activities cover the dismantling of the drilling system, repairing & refurnishing the marine system, implementing brand new topside process modules, and converting the vessel into a proper offshore oil and gas floating production unit that will be installed and commissioned at an offshore field in Congo.

A spokesperson for CIMC Raffles, commented: “CIMC Raffles has accumulated rich experiences in the design and construction of deepwater drilling platforms over the past years and is a well-deserved expert in this field.

“At the same time, we continue to position and expand the oil and gas production unit business and establish the EPC total contract capacity from hull construction, topside module construction, all the way to commissioning. CIMC Raffles have a solid delivery history.”

Saipem and CIMC Raffles have previously worked together. In early 2005, the Chinese firm got deals for one ultra-deepwater drilling platform and one pipelay vessel. Come 2022, the two companies signed leasing contracts for 300 ft and 400 ft jack-up drilling rigs.

The cooperation areas between Saipem and CIMC Raffles have expanded from the drilling platform and asset operation to the oil and gas production unit. In line with this, the Chinese player foresees that the cooperation will continue to expand further strengthening the relationship between the two parties.

“We are confident that we can deliver another quality project for our old friend Saipem, providing efficient and safe equipment for the production of oil and gas fields in the waters of the Congo,” added CIMC Raffles’ spokesperson.

Scarabeo 5 rig; Source: CIMC Raffles
Scarabeo 5 rig; Source: CIMC Raffles

The FPU deal is part of Eni’s Congo LNG project, the country’s first natural gas liquefaction project that is expected to reach an overall LNG production capacity of 3 million tons per year – approximately 4.5 billion cubic meters per year – from 2025. 

Saipem’s scope of work encompasses the engineering, procurement, construction, transportation and commissioning of the FPU to be installed offshore the coast of the Republic of Congo, located northwest of the Djeno Terminal, in a depth of about 35 metres. The commissioning of offshore works and the start-up of the FPU are slated for 4Q 2025.

The Congo LNG project is expected to exploit the gas resources of the Marine XII project, fulfilling power generation needs while fuelling LNG exports and supplying new volumes of gas to international markets focusing on Europe. The project entails the installation of two floating natural gas liquefaction plants at the Nenè and Litchendjili fields. 

The first FLNG plant, currently under conversion and with a capacity of 0.6 million tonnes per year, is expected to begin production in 2023, while the second FLNG plant, already under construction will come online in 2025, with a capacity of 2.4 MTPA.