Sigma to Spotlight Pioneering Mooring System in Australia

Sigma Offshore will launch a major Southern Hemisphere push of its pioneering mooring system for oil and gas production vessels at a key Australian energy event in March.

The ambitious turret mooring provider and engineering consultancy, recently expanded into Houston and Oslo and is now hoping to establish a share in the dynamic Australian and South-East Asia market.

Sigma Offshore has developed Smart Mooring System (SMS) -- a cost-efficient external turret with unlimited weathervaning for oil and gas vessels called FPSOs (Floating Production Storage and Offloading). More than 140 jobs could be created by the end of the year should business targets be achieved.

A scale-model of SMS is being shipped from Aberdeen, Scotland, to Perth, WA, to be the centrepiece of its stand at the Australasian Oil and Gas Exhibition and Conference on March 24-26 (2010). Sigma is exhibiting on stand N18 within the UK "village" organized by the Energy Industries Council.

South East Asia and Australia are expanding their offshore oil, condensate and gas production, with many of the projects using FPSOs for which Sigma's SMS has been developed. Delegations are expected from all the active countries in the region including Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand, Vietnam and China.

According to recent reports, Western Australia accounts for around 70% of the country's crude oil, condensate and gas production, including LNG (liquefied natural gas). A number of operators are on the brink of committing billions of dollars to a number of key projects.

Sigma Offshore President and Chief Executive Officer Alistair Dornan, who spent almost a year in Perth establishing the business of a UK-based oil and gas engineering consultancy as Executive Chairman, predicts there will be a demand for SMS as development companies keep an eye on costs during a period of rapid growth.

He said, "The pace of development in Australia and South East Asia and the scale of projects on the horizon is remarkable. We believe SMS has a lot of offer companies whether it’s for a full-scale project or for extended well testing to reduce future risk.

"We believe there will be great interest in SMS. We've already lined up meetings with several companies and we expect further contact before we arrive in Australia. I'm very much looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones."

Chief Technology Officer David Galbraith, who will also be attending the show, said, "The combination of the full weathervaning capability coupled with the ease of disconnecting an FPSO from the mooring lines and risers makes the SMS particularly suited to those parts of the world, like South East Asia and Australasia, that suffer hurricanes and typhoons."

Sigma’s model is 75:1 scale and cost £10,000 (Aus $17,500) to build, while the real thing can cost between £10m (Aus $17.5m) and £20m (Aus $35m) depending on the complexity and location of the project. This compares favourably with other mooring systems with fewer capabilities which can cost significantly more.

SMS provides an unlimited weathervaning mooring for a variety of marine applications including floating production, floating storage and offloading, floating LNG and CNG (compressed natural gas). It can connect vessels to subsea wells, wellhead platforms and pipelines. It is mounted on the bow of the vessel above the water rather than to the hull.

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

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.

Alistair Dornan is based at the company's headquarters at Salvesen Tower in Aberdeen, United Kingdom, while Executive Vice-President Business Development Allan Millmaker is based in Houston with Vice-President Business Development Eirik Refstie heading up the Oslo operation.

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, found out about the benefits of SMS and the company's global ambitions at last September's Offshore Europe event.