New Mini-platform Seeks to Improve Efficiency
A new unmanned mini-platform concept design has begun to produce natural gas in the North Sea.
The new generation “Minimum Facility” L6-B platform was created by Wintershall, a subsidiary of German-base BASF, and is specifically designed to increase economic returns. The new concept cuts costs down to nearly half of a conventional satellite platform, in large part due to its simple, minimalist design.
“The advantage of this new generation of platforms is that they can be deployed in particularly shallow waters and can economically produce even from very small natural gas fields. Furthermore, they can cut down on costs thanks to the short time needed for construction and the simple installation,” Wintershall said in a statement.
The L6-B facility was built in nine months and then transferred last June to its current location in a Dutch-owned region of the North Sea.
The mini-platform is completely controlled, operated and supplied with electricity from the larger L8-P4 platform. It is capable of maintaining two producing wells, with gas produced by the mini facility transferred to the neighboring platform via pipeline.
The company claims that the new design may be the smallest top side known, rising up only 18 meters (59 feet) from the sea. The platform is secured to the seafloor with suction piles and is made up of three upper decks. In total the substructure weighs in at 1,100 tons, and the top side comes in at a meager 100 tons.
The mini-platform gets its name from the L6-B gas field in which it is located. The field falls within a restricted military zone, with Wintershall being the first company allowed to operate in the area.
Wintershall purports to be one of the largest gas producers in the southern North Sea with 25 offshore platforms. The company has said that it plans to increase output by 40 percent over the next three years with the North Sea as a key area of operations.