Independent Mooring Provider Sigma Offshore Expands into US, Norway

Sigma Offshore has expanded into the United States and Norway following the launch of its pioneering mooring system for oil and gas production vessels.

The Scotland-based turret mooring provider, project management company and engineering consultancy, has appointed Houston-based Allan Millmaker as Executive President Business Development, while Vice President Business Development Eirik Refstie will head up Sigma's newly opened office in Oslo, Norway.

Millmaker was formerly the head of international floating production company Bluewater's United States operation, while Refstie is a former sales manager with Aibel, one of Norway's largest oil service companies, and SPT Group, the respected vendor and developer of flow assurance software and services for the oil and gas industry.

Sigma Offshore has developed Smart Mooring System (SMS) -- a cost-efficient and timesaving innovation for oil and gas vessels called FPSOs (Floating Production Storage and Offloading).

The Aberdeen-based company is looking to win business in the Gulf of Mexico, South America, West Africa, North Africa and South-East Asia -- including Australian waters -- and predicts more than 140 jobs could be created by the end of next year should the business hit its targets.

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, found out about the global ambitions of Sigma at Offshore Europe 09 (Sept 8-11) at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.

As well as Sigma's plans, a £10,000 ($16,000) model of SMS -- the centerpiece of Sigma's stand at Offshore Europe -- caught the eye of the First Minister.

Alistair Dornan, Sigma Offshore's President and Chief Executive Officer, said, "Mr. Salmond was delighted to hear about a Scottish company looking to develop internationally. We're pleased he took an interest in Sigma Offshore and our Smart Mooring System.

"He asked whether the system could be used for early well testing and reducing future main project risks, thereby generating early revenue for projects. The answer was yes. I was impressed with his quick grasp of our product and his incisive questions."

The 75:1 scale model was designed and built by respected Inverurie-based company, Donald Smith Modelmakers. The real thing can cost between £10m ($16m) and £20m ($32m) depending on the complexity and location of the project, while mooring systems with fewer capabilities can cost significantly more.

Dornan added, "We believe there are considerable savings not just in cost, but also in fabrication time by using SMS.

"Allan Millmaker and Eirik Refstie will open up opportunities not just in Houston and Norway, but around the globe. We've had strong interest from the Gulf of Mexico, South America, West Africa, North Africa and South East Asia. Our ultimate aim is to be the largest independent turret mooring company in the world."

Millmaker, who has more than 30 years' experience in the oil and gas industry after graduating with a first class honors degree in Production Engineering and Management at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow in 1974, said, "SMS has enjoyed a very positive reception in the market.

"The system has already been tendered together with a major production contractor for a field development project with a large independent oil and gas company.

"In addition, several budgetary proposals have been prepared for projects in the planning stage. Despite the economic downturn, the number of projects in the planning cycle continues to grow and we expect a strong demand for our products as we come out of the recession."

Refstie said, "The reaction and feedback has been very good and we are currently in dialogue with several interested parties. I believe there is room for a new independent turret-mooring provider and that FPSO companies without their own turret technology want us to succeed."

SMS provides a full weather-vaning mooring for a variety of marine applications including floating production, floating storage, floating LNG (liquefied natural gas) and CNG (compressed natural gas).

The Smart Mooring System connects vessels to subsea wells and pipelines. SMS has undergone rigorous testing at the Danish Hydraulic Institute as well as receiving key approval from DNV (Det Norske Veritas) in Norway. It is mounted on the bow of the vessel rather than the hull, providing a number of engineering, time and cost benefits.

Benefits of the system include the ability to operate in harsh environments, low maintenance costs, efficient connect/reconnect systems and minimal invasion into the ship's hull. The system’s modular design allows fabrication at various locations around the world. Sigma has identified opportunities in the conversion of vessels, where both reduced time and cost benefits offered by SMS are heightened.

Millmaker added, "The system is available in permanent and disconnectable configurations for small field development. The product addresses a niche in the offshore mooring systems market and offers vessel owners a cost-effective alternative from an independent supplier with a focused and experienced team."

As well as FSO and FPSO mooring solutions, Sigma Offshore delivers extended well testing systems, floating production export system solutions, subsea architecture design, deepwater subsea solutions and project management.

The company -- based at the city's Salvesen Tower -- employs 22 staff. Sigma recently secured £2m of funding following £1m investment from Scottish Enterprise's Scottish Venture Fund, while Energy Ventures, an original investor and the company's major shareholder, provided the rest.