A SMALL Scottish company is taking on the big offshore turret mooring systems brands such as SBM by offering a concept whose roots lie in an approach long used by the British Admiralty for tethering ships.
Aberdeen-based and largely Norwegian-financed Sigma Offshore has developed the so-called Smart Mooring System (SMS) for deployment with production vessels.
Think in terms of a spar-shaped floating structure with a highly evolved “compass gimball” at the top end and a latch system that can be tailored to the bows of different styles of production vessel.
Sigma CEO Alistair Dornan says SMS will provide independent operators/production-ship owners with an alternative to the dominant brands, and he expects the system to have a price tag at least 40% lower – an estimated £18million versus perhaps £30million for other systems with similar capabilities.
Dornan’s aim is simple: he wants Sigma to become the largest independent turret mooring provider in the world. And he’s starting that push at this year’s Offshore Europe.
He wants the firm to become a sizeable employer, too. It currently has 22 staff at its Salvesen Tower headquarters in Aberdeen, but Dornan predicts that, by the end of 2010, more than 140 jobs could be created if the technology gains the anticipated market traction.
The road is essentially clear as, last year, SMS was put through tank trials at the Danish Hydraulics Institute and, in November, DNV (Det Norske Veritas) granted provisional approval.
Dornan told Energy that he felt SMS had started to attract significant interest; that there are few players in this particular market space, and that independent tanker/production-ship providers need a broader choice than is currently the case.
“We’re currently tendering and, in recent discussions, we secured technical approval by a large independent,” said Dornan.
“However, our immediate client base is the people who provide tankers and (production) topsides.
“We have the advantage of being independent … that means we’re not locked into existing proprietary brands like Bluewater or SBM.”
An engineer by discipline and with a considerable track record with leading design houses, Dornan describes SMS as a third-generation system, and says the geographic markets in Sigma’s sights are Gulf of Mexico, South America, West Africa, North Africa and South-east Asia.
He has made what will hopefully turn out to be a really canny appointment by hiring a senior figure from Bluewater, plus taking on an experienced business development manager in its Norway office (ex-Abiel, SPT Group).
SMS has apparently been “favourably assessed” by three world experts – Jaap de Baan, a highly respected consultant and a former senior VP at Bluewater; Jarle Andersen, MD of Norwegian-based Global Moorings Services, and Duncan Peace, a director at Crondall Energy Consultants, which is regarded as a leading production-ship technology consultancy.
Sigma recently secured £2million of funding following £1million investment from Scottish Enterprise’s Scottish Venture Fund, while Energy Ventures, an original investor and the company’s major shareholder, provided the rest.
For readers less familiar with the details of production-ship moorings, SMS is designed to both permanently moor and act as a conduit for riser pipes from production wells installed on the seafloor.
It is designed to provide 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 system is available in permanent and disconnectable configurations for small field development.
Its modular design allows fabrication at various locations around the world.