Front Runner Spar En Route to US Gulf

Measuring 179 meters in length, 29 meters in diameter and weighing over 12,785 tons, the Front Runner truss-Spar hull was fabricated by J. Ray McDermott in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

After 15 months of construction the structure was loaded onto a heavy transport barge during a 16-hour operation, in early October. The vessel embarked for the Suez Canal on schedule, and took just 18 days to reach the Mediterranean. It is expected to reach the Gulf of Mexico by mid-December.

In total the structure will travel over 17,400km, which equates to nearly half the world, before it reaches its final destination, Block 338 in Green Canyon 217 kilometers off the coast of Louisiana. J. Ray McDermott Gulf of Mexico operations will then install the structure in over 1,067 meters of water, where it will form the base of Murphy Oil's Front Runner field development platform.

"J. Ray McDermott is one of only two companies in the world that has proprietary rights to Spar technology," explained Kurt Nelson senior vice president, sales, marketing and strategic planning.

"Murphy Oil's Front Runner Spar hull is the third Spar hull project that our company has undertaken these past two years, as we broaden our focus into deeper water and into floating production solutions," he said. "Built on its side, the hull will be installed in a vertical position and, once upright in the water, will have a draft of 164 meters, making it the deepest draft structure ever built in the Middle East," explained Nelson. "The topsides which are still under fabrication at a yard in the Gulf of Mexico will then be installed on top of the hull, completing the platform."

With the successful fabrication of three Spar hulls, J. Ray McDermott has learned significant lessons and achieved important milestones for the industry as a whole. "Firstly, we have advanced state-of-the-art hull design by leveraging our extensive fabrication experience," explained Nelson. "Secondly, we have expanded the number of fully credentialed Spar hull fabrication facilities, with these projects, Spar hulls have now been successfully fabricated at J. Ray McDermott's Jebel Ali (United Arab Emirates) and Batam (Indonesia) fabrication yards, and in Finland. And thirdly, we have improved the position of the Spar concept through the inclusion of our very competitive yards in both the Middle East and Asia Pacific."

Once installed, the floating platform will be able to handle 60,000 barrels of crude oil and 110 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from Front Runner and several other nearby prospects operated by Murphy Oil. Production is scheduled to start in the second half of 2004.