A ‘fork’ of a help for tankers

01 Mar 2013
The HiLoad will enable a standard, long distance tanker to grab a load from the offshore facility

The HiLoad will enable a standard, long distance tanker to grab a load from the offshore facility

An offshore tanker loading idea that might have seemed a little ‘far out’ both figuratively and literally is now being taken very seriously by a large shuttle tanker and offshore services company, writes Stevie Knight.

It's 'far out’ because that’s the idea: tankers would not have to set out from a landside base, says Ingvild Saether of Teekay, as they could use the new unit “to do the job of a fork”. The HiLoad Dynamic Positioning vessel built by Remora AS will enable a standard, long distance tanker to grab a load from the offshore facility and swallow it, filling up directly at the production site from which it can simply set off for the global markets.

It isn’t, says Ms Saether, going to replace shuttle tankers anytime soon, but is seen as a complementary offering. “What’s been happening is that companies like Petrobras are gaining enough production in the Brazilian oilfields to want to export it to the international markets,” she says. She adds that while shuttle tankers with their DP capability have been used till now to offload from the fields, this has been a almost solely for the closer, domestic Brazilian market. “These are sophisticated specialist vessels and not necessarily best utilised on the longer international routes,” she explains.

“Oilfield products for export can use this kind of Highload tanker as it will stay in the field, clamping onto a conventional tanker while it loads and then letting go,” says Ms Saether. The additional part of the bonus is that the unit keeps the standard tanker stable while loading.

While it will find a ready home in the Brazilian oilfields, there is a possibility this kind of operation will expand into the West African market which, given a probable surge in production, will also be looking at additional and more efficient exports. However, it’s not suitable for all kinds of operation: “In the North Sea you have harsher weather, so it’s a question of finding the right technology for the right market,” concludes Ms Saether.

She adds that although the idea seems novel, Teekay has been keeping on top of the unfolding story of its development for quite some time.

It’s an effective solution for both parties: the HiLoad DP unit's total purchase price of US$55 million which includes the cost to purchase the unit and complete the necessary modifications, represents approximately 4.5 times the unit's expected annual cash flow from operations. As part of the transaction, Teekay has also agreed to invest approximately US$4.4 million to acquire a 49.9% fully diluted ownership interest in a recapitalized Remora.

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