ACE topsides installation; Source: BP

WATCH: BP’s $6 billion project closer to first oil as topsides sail away and installation works wrap up

UK-headquartered energy giant BP is closing in on the first oil from its operated Azeri Central East (ACE) project in Azerbaijan by completing the topsides sailaway and installation for the ACE platform, which is now ready for offshore hook-up and commissioning works in the Caspian Sea.

ACE topsides installation; Source: BP

BP’s $6 billion ACE project is the next phase of the Azeri-Chirag-Deepwater Gunashli (ACG) field in the Caspian Sea off Azerbaijan. This project was sanctioned in April 2019 and construction started that same year with expectations to achieve the first production in 2023.

When December 2022 rolled in, the jacket of the Azeri Central East platform – built at the Heydar Aliyev Baku Deepwater Jackets Factory (BDJF) – was ready for load-out to sail away to its permanent location in the ACG contract area in the Caspian Sea.

At the time Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, visited the BDJF yard for an official ceremony to launch the jacket, scheduled to sail away for offshore installation in the first quarter of 2023. Come 4 April 2023, the President of Azerbaijan also visited the topsides fabrication yard and toured the almost completed topsides unit before it sailed away to its permanent location.

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Since then, BP explains that it completed the key commissioning activities planned to be performed onshore, such as the completion of the rig access period, the integrated assurance test, and the blowdown safety testing. Following these completions, the topsides unit was safely jacked up and lowered onto the load-out frame in preparation for skidding onto the transportation barge.

On 30 May 2023, the transportation barge STB-1 arrived at the Bibi-Heybat yard and preparations for load-out activities commenced. A few days later, on 2 July, the topsides unit was transferred onto the STB-1 barge, sea-fastened, and prepared for sailaway to the ACG field.

The Azeri Central East platform topsides unit sailed away on 7 August 2023 from the Bayil fabrication yard where it was built. Prior to its sailaway, the topsides unit was mostly commissioned and operationally tested onshore to minimise the activities required for offshore installation and start-up.

ACE topsides sail away; Source: BP
ACE topsides sail away; Source: BP

Gary Jones, BP’s regional president for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Türkiye, commented at the time: “We sailed away the final section of the ACE platform which we believe is an amazing feat of innovative engineering with its state-of-the-art design that will make it possible to extensively use system and process automations and digital innovations. This platform will be controlled remotely from the Sangachal terminal and this is the first time in our experience in the Caspian that we will control an offshore platform from onshore.

“As operator, we are extremely pleased to have completed all onshore construction and commissioning activities of such a complex project safely. I would like to say a huge thank you to all people involved in the construction and commissioning works. My special thanks are to our fabrication contractors, construction, commissioning, operations, safety and engineering teams, and all the workforce for their excellent performance and delivery.

“We expect the topsides unit to be safely installed onto the jacket over the next week. We will then need a few months to complete offshore hook-up and commissioning works to allow us to commence drilling the first platform production well and deliver ACE’s first oil in early 2024.”

According to the oil major, the topsides transportation, float-over, and installation activities were carefully planned and were expected to take around four days to complete. The unit was installed on top of the ACE platform jacket, which has been at its offshore location since March, installed in a water depth of 137 metres.

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BP highlights that the construction of the 19,600-tonne topsides unit started in 2019 and was completed with safety achievements of over 21 million hours worked injury free. The ACE topsides unit consists of oil and gas processing facilities, an integrated drilling rig, a gas compressor, and living quarters. The topsides unit was constructed by Azfen in the Bayil fabrication yard using local infrastructure and resources.

The ACE project has gas, oil and water injection pipelines and all of them are now installed on the seabed. The pipelines range between 6 and 12 kilometres and tie into the existing ACG pipelines. The subsea oil pipeline isolation tool was launched and the works to isolate the pipeline topsides were also completed in the first half of 2023.

The UK oil major points out that the diving support vessel completed the tie-in of the existing 30” spool, while the Citadel vessel finalised the isolation tool reversal activity. Offshore commissioning works for the Central Azeri platform telecom modifications for ACE were also wrapped up in the first half of the year.

The ACE project is centred on a new 48-slot production, drilling, and quarters platform located mid-way between the existing Central Azeri and East Azeri platforms in a water depth of approximately 140 metres. This project entails new infield pipelines to transfer oil and gas from the ACE platform to the existing ACG Phase 2 oil and gas export pipelines for transportation to the onshore Sangachal terminal. 

Additionally, the project will include a water injection pipeline between the East Azeri and ACE platforms to supply injection water from the Central Azeri compression and water injection platform to the ACE facilities. 

BP outlines that the ACE platform and facilities are designed to process up to 100,000 barrels of oil per day while the project is expected to produce up to 300 million barrels over its lifetime. At peak, over 8,500 people were involved in the ACE project construction works in Azerbaijan.