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North Sea and Mexico: bridging the gap to faster recovery

North Sea and Mexico: bridging the gap to faster recovery

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05 October 2018

As Mexico continues to fuel its oil and gas revolution, a helpful hand with North Sea roots can bring the country’s offshore pipelay operations ahead of their time.

Despite an estimated 29 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) locked within Mexico’s waters, and further
60 billion in shale, most of the reserves remain untapped due to historic underinvestment.

What is more significant, over the past decade the country’s hydrocarbon production has been progressively declining, raising alarm bells over the growing national energy demand.

To offset the negative trend back in 2013, the country’s government made the revolutionary move to open its oil and gas market to the private sector - putting an end to the 75-year monopoly by state-owned Pemex.

Since the reform, Mexico has already attracted a huge potential investment from auctioning off of around
100 contracts to local and foreign firms, including IOCs such as ExxonMobil and Shell.

The appetite for this market will no doubt continue to grow among IOCs, NOCs, independent operators and service companies alike, all looking to take a bite from one of the largest untapped reserves in the world - however, the route to fame and fortune will take expertise and time.

Traditionally, shallow-water reserves have taken an average of six to nine years to start up, and there are no previous deepwater discoveries to give an indication of how long these could take to come online.


MDL electric winch, part of a 40-winch package for Subsea 7 vessels for projects offshore Brazil

It is clear how Mexico can benefit from an extensive E&P expertise brought in by the international companies, if it is going to ramp up the activity to turn its declining production on its head.

This is where North Sea expertise steps in.

With its own oil revolution in the 1970s, the North-Atlantic basin has seen it all: from rapid field development to production slumps, prompting clever thinking and development of new technology to maximise returns on reduced investment.

MDL has begun its service to the North Sea marine sector in the midst of this development, in 1999. When the market went into the 2014 depression, the company’s innovative pipelay equipment and customer- focused approach started to make a noticeable impact on offshore operations.

By that point, MDL had already developed a reputation for market-leading technology, by supplying service companies in Europe and elsewhere in the world with tailored equipment, built to specification.
But it was its growing rental service that was having the biggest influence in the downturn: featuring the same advanced technology as the equipment it built for sale, the MDL Offshore Service fleet quickly became the most desirable pipelay option available for hire - not just for North Sea operations, but globally.

What made the service even more meaningful in a market that was going through a huge transformation - handicapped by skills shortage and far-reaching cost reduction - was the highly experienced consultancy service, working out the best solution to carry out a project safely to a given budget and schedule.

To date, MDL’s packaged back-deck service has worked for IOCs, NOCs and independent operators across four continents, becoming synonymous with high-quality and value.

Now, this bespoke service is closer than ever, as MDL has recently opened an equipment base in the Gulf of Mexico, and is reaching the Mexican market through its partnership with project management and offshore service provider, Frontera Offshore.

Apart from its North Sea expertise, what makes MDL a valuable player in GoM operations is its familiarity with the Americas regions. Over the recent years, MDL has supplied 40 winches for Subsea 7 operations offshore Brazil; delivered the world’s biggest portable reel drive system at 1,300 mT SWL capacity to Oceaneering, and carried out shallow and deep-water campaigns in the Caribbean and GoM.



The RDS working in the Gulf of Mexico

More recently, MDL set up a flex-lay base in the USA by moving a whole suite of equipment into Delmar Systems’ Port Fourchon, Louisiana facility. The strategic placement of equipment from the rental fleet in the southern coast of the USA allows easy access to the entire GoM region.

Further, MDL has recently transferred its offshore handling expertise into the crane wire maintenance market through the Delmar partnership and the development of LiveWire™.

And just this month MDL completed a steel-pipe handling project in California, demonstrating the benefits of the remote-controlled equipment in the midstream sector.

The physical proximity of MDL’s technology maximises the key benefits of the company’s portable equipment design: every system can be broken down into modules and transported by road or in standard shipping containers.

More than that, the equipment can be easily mobilized on-board standard construction vessels or even barges, turning a simple LCV into a pipelay solution for the duration of the project. What this means for the majority of pipe installation work in the shallow-water southern Gulf of Mexico, is there is no requirement to utilize specialist pipelay vessels from Europe, which tend to be overbooked and heavily priced.

This fact alone could be a game-changer to the estimated USD 35 billion worth of projects including pipelay scopes already planned for the region between 2018-2023.

MDL’s Plug & Play functionality means the systems are best in class for efficiency during mobilization. Once the equipment is lifted onto the vessel’s deck, it is sea-fastened and ready for work within hours. This doesn’t only speed up the mission itself, but also releases the vessel quicker, to avoid unnecessary charter costs.

What’s more notable is that the equipment downtime for repairs or maintenance is non-existent, thanks to the robust design and strict maintenance procedure followed thoroughly by the MDL service personnel.
 
In fact, all of MDL’s offshore team know the equipment inside-out. When not working in an offshore capacity, the personnel are participating in the complete delivery process of new equipment at MDL’s manufacturing yard in Scotland. Including offshore service personnel in the complete life cycle: from manufacturing to operations, ensures the correct procedures and proper operation of the equipment at all times during an offshore project.

The company’s UK base is home to all specialist disciplines: from structural engineers to software developers, all working on continuous improvement of the equipment, finding more efficient sea-fastening and storage solutions, and providing round-the-clock support to the offshore teams globally through live project feed monitoring and remote dial-up.

This is particularly important as exploration delves deeper into Mexican waters, putting safety of operations into the spotlight. MDL’s equipment fleet is designed to reduce risks during installation through complete automation and a range of safety features, preventing the loss of product in extreme conditions.

The Lloyds and DNV verification of the equipment also means it is fit for purpose and readily certified for deployment on vessels of opportunity - in fact, the MDL fleet is the only one in the global pipelay rental market to have the code verification in place.

Armed with the North Sea experience of turning a challenging situation into a profitable one – and a fleet of market-leading equipment on its doorstep - MDL is perfectly placed to help Mexico speed up the returns from its oil revolution.