Two new search and rescue choppers coming to work at Equinor’s North Sea assets
Norwegian state-owned energy giant Equinor has handed a five-year contract to Lufttransport RW, a compatriot helicopter operator, for two new search and rescue helicopters (SAR), which will carry out operations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS). This enables Lufttransport to become the third helicopter operator qualifying for assignments on the NCS.
The new Leonardo AW 139 helicopters, which will be part of the SAR emergency response system and carry out assignments in the Troll and Oseberg area in the northern North Sea, will be taken over by Lufttransport RW in the second quarter of 2025. These helicopters will be ready for operation from 2026. While the original deal is for five years, the contract comes with options for five one-year extensions.
Ørjan Kvelvane, Equinor’s Senior Vice President for Joint Operations Support, commented: “This contract strengthens our resilience and ensures increased helicopter capacity. Lufttransport RW is a Norwegian-owned company based in Tromsø, with extensive experience from operating both search and rescue helicopters and transport helicopters. We look forward to working with them.”
While one helicopter will be stationed at the Oseberg field center, the other helicopter is a backup SAR machine that will be stationed at the heliport at Flesland and will be used for passenger traffic to and from Equinor installations. These new helicopter additions will supplement the two Sikorsky S-92 machines that currently perform these tasks.
The Oseberg Field Center – located in Block 30/6 and 30/9, about 130 kilometers northwest of Bergen – includes three platforms, Oseberg A, B, and D, connected with bridges, in the southern part of the Oseberg field, and the Oseberg C platform, which lies 13 kilometers north of the field center.
On the other hand, the Troll field is located 65 kilometers off Kollsnes and lies at a water depth of approximately 300 meters. Equinor is the operator of the Troll A, B, and C platforms and the landfall pipelines, whereas Gassco is the operator of the gas processing plant at Kollsnes on behalf of Gassled.
“We have long aimed to qualify a new helicopter model that meets the strict requirements on the NCS. The AW139 is a newer helicopter type with well-proven technology that meets high safety standards. With this contract, we get well-equipped machines capable of operating well under the conditions on the NCS, and in accordance with our safety requirements, both for search and rescue- and transportation purposes,” added Kvelvane.
According to Equinor, the AW 139 machines, qualified for flying on the NCS, are widely used in the offshore industry globally, including on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), for search and rescue services in Sweden, and by the Norwegian Air Ambulance.
“SAR helicopters are key to maintaining emergency preparedness and transportation services on the NCS. They are also important for emergency preparedness purposes along the entire coast, also beyond assignments related to the petroleum activities,” outlined Equinor.
Equinor was recently awarded 39 new production licenses – 18 production licenses in the North Sea, 13 in the Norwegian Sea, and 8 in the Barents Sea with the Norwegian firm being picked as the operator of 14 of the awarded licenses, and a partner in 25 – in APA 2023.