Another GBS for the Grand Banks?

Husky considering slimmed-down gravity base structure for White Rose

Moira Baird
Published on March 7, 2011
The Sea Rose FPSO, a shuttle tanker and an offshore supply ship at the White Rose field on the Grand Banks.
Submitted photo

Husky Energy is considering a gravity base structure for the White Rose oilfield — but it’s not a Hibernia-style GBS.

It’s not even a smaller Hebron-style GBS.

Husky is eyeing a GBS of another kind: a wellhead that strictly pumps oil from the seabed and is capable of drilling wells.

The company says a wellhead GBS is one of the early-stage options for developing the White Rose oilfield’s growing resource base.

“We’re looking at a whole range of different concepts,” said Paul McCloskey, Husky’s East Coast vice-president

“One of the opportunities that we are considering is the installation of a very skinny GBS.

“Effectively, it’s a wellhead platform as opposed to something like Hibernia.

 (At Hibernia) they have processing and a whole range of other functions on board.”

Pump oil, drill wells

The SeaRose production ship, which is currently producing oil from White Rose, would continue to do so.

The GBS would pump oil to the SeaRose, where it would be processed, stored and offloaded to tankers that ship the crude to market.

“The wellhead facility would just be that — it wouldn’t have any storage on board, wouldn’t have any processing,” said McCloskey. “It would very, very simple.

“Our thinking continues to be that oil is the priority.

“We have a lot of oil reserves in the White Rose area and we’ll continue to focus on them for the near to medium term.”

In late 2009, Husky announced it had found more oil at White Rose.

One oil find — estimated between 100 million barrels and 250 million barrels — lies deep beneath the main White Rose oilfield in a formation called Hibernia.

The other oil find may add 60 million barrels of oil to North Amethyst, the first White Rose expansion field that started production in May 2010.

Husky has said more work is needed to figure out how much of that crude can be economically recovered. As well, it’s still finalizing reserves at its second planned expansion, West White Rose.

Know more by year-end

Husky expects to know by the end of the year if the GBS concept is a cost-efficient one for its growing reserves.

“It’s not just a case of working on the concept itself, it’s also ensuring that we have the resource base to support it,” said McCloskey.

“I would say by the end of the year we would be much further advanced in our thinking.

“The operations that we’re conducting at  North Amethyst and the West will help inform that decision.”

During a December investor conference, Husky’s new president and CEO, Asim Ghosh, said the company is rethinking the notion of drilling wells using floating rigs.

“That is a certain cost,” he told investment analysts. “It is a very high cost because it’s a hostile, cold-water environment and there are very few rigs that can do that.”

Ghosh said a fixed platform could be a more cost-efficient way to extract oil or gas from the seabed.

“Once you have a fixed platform, you have an upfront fixed cost, but your variable cost plummets. That allows you to optimize your extraction costs.”

Long-term cost savings

A GBS with its own drill rig offers cost-savings on two fronts.

It eliminates the need to find and hire scarce rigs suited to the Grand Banks’ harsh, cold-water environment.

And a rig on a fixed platform could drill in any North Atlantic weather unlike floating rigs that can be hampered by high seas and ice. The delays can be costly.

“The reason we’re taking this approach is that it would enable us to drill wells, we think, potentially more efficiently,” said McCloskey.

A GBS also eliminates the expense of dredging glory holes — man-made craters  in the seabed designed to protect wellhead equipment from icebergs that scrape the ocean floor. Both the White Rose and Terra Nova oilfields use them.

McCloskey said proven GBS technology may be a good fit for future oil and gas developments at White Rose.

“It’s just another example of our striving to find better ways of doing things,” he said.

“We continue to be committed to finding the best possible way, the most efficient way, the most cost-effective way, the safest and most environmentally friendly way of developing our resources.”