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9. December 2018

In rough seas

Working in extreme conditions – BUCHEN carries out cleaning work on an oil rig in the Arctic Ocean

A particularly complex challenge

BUCHEN often find themselves working in difficult conditions when they are called out to clean their customers’ tanks and containers. Few environments, however, have been as challenging as the one they experienced just recently – an oil rig in the Arctic Ocean. BUCHEN recently carried out a project for the Russian firm Gazprom that involved it cleaning a number of storage tanks on the Prirazlomnoye oil rig, the world’s only offshore project producing oil in the Arctic Ocean.

Temperatures as low as minus 40°C

The Prirazlomnoye platform is located in the far north – in the Pechora Sea on the Arctic Shelf. Here, in the north west of Russia, the sea is covered in ice for seven months of the year. It goes without saying that a very special kind of rig is needed to drill oil in this environment as it has to cope with two-metre-high ice ridges, temperatures falling to minus 40°C and waves reaching ten metres high. Developed specifically for the Arctic Ocean, Prirazlomnoye is able to withstand both extreme weather conditions and maximum ice loads. This platform, which enables oil to be extracted in such a harsh environment, is one of a kind.

Extensive cleaning tasks

A number of storage tanks on Prirazlomnoye had to be cleaned in both 2017 and 2018 – a case for the BUCHEN specialists. Working on behalf of their client, Gazprom Neft Shelf, they cleaned three offshore tanks used for storing drilling fluid, drilling mud and brine and able to hold up to 490m³.

Thanks to the way the oil rig has been built, it can withstand extreme weather conditions and maximum ice loads.

The first step involved the team removing any deposits from the tanks. Once this had been completed, they then set about cleaning the inside walls with high pressure water jets. There were two main reasons why BUCHEN had been commissioned to carry out the work: its experience (having completed similar projects for companies operating in the Russian energy sector) and its ability to pump out sediment from tanks up to 30 metres deep.

The Russian oil rig, Prirazlomnoye, is the world’s only offshore project producing oil in the Arctic Ocean

Working in the tightest of spaces

Offshore rigs are certainly considered to be the most difficult of all working environments when it comes to producing oil – especially when they are in the Arctic. Cleaning tanks on an oil rig is also a huge challenge. Well aware of this, BUCHEN had to first meticulously plan the project before it could send in its team. Despite Prirazlomnoye being a very large platform, there is in fact very little room available.

Safety at sea: all of the BUCHEN employees working on the project had first taken part in a special offshore course.

From a practical point of view, this not only meant that the work had to be performed in confined surroundings but also that there was only limited space available for positioning and storing the technical equipment. This equipment was supplied by BUCHEN’s Russian branch in Ufa and transported by ship to the rig where it was stored in stackable containers.

Special offshore qualifications

BUCHEN initially sent in a team of twelve and later 18 operatives to carry out the work. Flown in by helicopter, the BUCHEN employees stayed in the platform’s residential module throughout the project. All of the team members had special maritime skills as well as their professional qualifications. Each and every one of them had taken part in a special offshore course beforehand that focused on safety at sea and involved both theoretical and hands-on training. Having completed the course and been presented with the relevant certificate, these BUCHEN employees can now be deployed to offshore projects all around the world. Thanks to these qualifications and the work they performed on the Prirazlomnoye platform, they have a level of expertise that is hard to match.

Image credits: © REMONDIS


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