WATCH: Shell’s giant new FPSO sets off to North Sea on board Boskalis vessel

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Penguins FPSO; Source: COOEC

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As China’s Offshore Oil Engineering Company (COOEC) has completed the construction of a circular floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel destined for Shell’s oil and gas project off the UK, this FPSO is now on its way to the North Sea.

COOEC held the delivery ceremony for the Penguins FPSO in Qingdao, east China’s Shandong Province on 29 November 2022. The FPSO was built for Shell’s Penguins oil and gas field located in the UK North Sea,  241 kilometres (150 miles) northeast of the Shetland Islands.

The UK-headquartered giant made a final investment decision on the redevelopment of this field in 2018, authorising the construction of the Penguins FPSO, which is reported to be the first new manned installation for Shell in the northern North Sea in almost 30 years.

After Offshore Energy reached out to Shell to seek more information about the FPSO’s expected departure date from the Chinese yard, a spokesperson for Shell confirmed on Friday, 1 December 2022 for Offshore Energy that “the FPSO will depart from the Chinese yard imminently.”

In addition, Offshore Energy contacted COOEC to obtain more information about the vessel and its expected departure, but no response has been received so far. However, the Chinese player did release a statement on 2 December 2022, highlighting that the Penguins FPSO was the largest cylindrical FPSO built by a Chinese company.

According to COOEC, the 118-metre-tall vessel – equivalent to a 42-story residential building – has the ability to withstand harsh sea conditions. It weighs 32,000 tonnes and can process 12.75 million barrels of crude oil and 1.24 billion m3 of natural gas per year. This FPSO has a maximum crude storage capacity of 400,000 barrels.

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Furthermore, COOEC disclosed that the FPSO was composed of more than 1 million parts while 217 sets of large-scale mechanical equipment and more than 17,000 units were integrated on the circular deck with a diameter of 78 meters. Since the start of construction in 2018, the Chinese firm teamed up with partners to overcome the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic on material supply chains.

“Compared with the conventional ship type, the cylindrical FPSO has more complex production process, more compact space layout, higher degree of integration, and stricter construction technical requirements,” elaborated COOEC.

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China’s state-controlled media reported that the vessel embarked on its journey last Tuesday. The Penguins FPSO left the Chinese yard on board Boskalis’ semi-submersible heavy transport vessel White Marlin. While it is estimated that the journey to the North Sea will take 55 days, the vessel is expected to stop at a Norwegian yard for commissioning prior to reaching its destination in the UK North Sea.

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The Penguins field, discovered in 1974, was first developed in 2002 with oil and gas pumped from four drill centres that were tied back to the Brent Charlie platform in the nearby Brent field. Come 2017, after over forty years of operation, Shell started the process of decommissioning the Brent field, including the Brent Charlie platform.

Back in 2018, Shell said that the Penguins FPSO would take the place of the Brent Charlie platform, and underscored that the redevelopment of the Penguins field would see an additional eight wells drilled, which would be tied back to the FPSO vessel.

The UK player disclosed at the time that oil would be transported via a tanker to refineries while gas would be transported via the Far North Liquids and Associated Gas System (FLAGS) pipeline to the St Fergus gas terminal in northeast Scotland. Once fully functional, the average peak production is expected to be approximately 45,000 boe/d.

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Meanwhile, COOEC claims that it has delivered many large-scale international energy equipment engineering projects in recent years such as Yamal LNG and Brazil P67/P70 FPSO projects. The company underlines that this demonstrates its “good engineering contract performance capabilities in the field of large-scale floating production units and modular plant construction.”

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