Foundations for success

SPT Offshore is a leading independent offshore contractor that specialises in the development and production of innovative suction pile foundations and self-installing platforms (SIPs), for use in offshore oil and gas developments and wind farms.

Based in the Netherlands, the business serves customers on a global basis, collaborating closely with many of the industry’s leading contractors. Aside from its established self-installing and suction pile products, the company has recently developed an innovative suction anchor and is looking to move into the wind energy field.

Mark Riemers, managing director at the business elaborates further: “There is really no other company quite like SPT Offshore, in that we specialise completely in the development and SPT 06 2008 cmanufacture of self-installing structures and suction pile foundations. Many of our competitors are involved in this work, but conduct it more as a sideline to their other operations. We have developed our own, inhouse concepts in these fields that really set us apart and allow us to offer considerable benefits to our customers.”

The company’s range of products includes selfinstalling platforms, suction pile clusters, suction piles, suction embedded anchors (SEA), and suction pile foundations. SPT has developed five proprietary self-installing platform concepts – unique designs that are installed without the use of heavy lift vessels or the need for pile driving, and are ideally suited to marginal to medium sized field developments. “The platforms are either self-floating using their own buoyancy, or we use one of our own barges to float and tow them to the field,” says Mark. “This is an extremely useful solution that means that we do not have to rely on anyone else to float or install our products, but can complete the whole operation quickly and smoothly by ourselves.”

The barge installed platform concept, referred to as SIP2, is suited for 5,000 mT topside weights in up to 50m water depths. SPT currently undertakes two FEED studies for platforms with deck weight of 2,000 mT and 3,200 mT respectively in water depths of 20m and 45m.

Mark explains more about the self-installation platform concept: “One of the self-installing concepts is referred to as SIP1. This is a selffloating braced monopile concept that is based on either one or three suction piles. The braced mono-pile concept can be used for small topside weights up to say 500 mT or as a deck extension when installed next to existing structures.

“The braced mono-pile may be transported vertically when intended for use in water depths up to 50 metres, and horizontally for depths beyond this. The design has buoyancy in the suction piles and the structure itself to keep it afloat and to ballast it down. For the vertical transport, a small hookload of approx ten to 20 per cent of the structure weight is required to lower this to the seafloor in a stable manner. This could be provided using a jack-up work platform equipped with a crane, a DSV with crane or a jack-up drill rig. For the horizontal float operation we upend the whole system by ballasting it in the water. After ballasting, the subsequent suction operation is very fast, taking no more than a couple of hours.”

The advantages of the self-installation concept are easily apparent. The product offers significant cost and time savings in comparison with the more conventional heavy lift barge installed and piled platforms, and can be re-used. Scheduling platform installation offshore is never an issue as availability of tugs and suction pumps is never a problem. Mark elaborates: “The combination of the self installing platform and suction piles works excellently together because you only need a pump to install them rather than heavy pile driving equipment and long piles. Also, the suction piles are versatile, easy to use and decommission, and simple to move to other locations for re-use.”

More recently, SPT has developed an innovative anchor technology that is installed using a suction pile follower. “We have sold 86 No. SEA anchors, which is a sort of umbrella anchor, for use inSPT 06 2008 b shallow water. We are in the process of testing the SEA anchor installation off a standard anchor handling tug, in collaboration with Petrobras, off the coast of Brazil,” Mark comments. “Unique in its approach, the anchor is pushed into the soil using a suction pile, in a process that leaves a relatively small amount of steel behind. Once the anchor is pushed in at the required depth, the suction pile flow is reversed, opening and detaching it and leaving the anchor behind. We see great potential for this solution as it provides a very effective anchor, and is up to 50 per cent cheaper than current suction pile technology.”

Much of SPT’s success is founded on the extensive experience within the business, which allows it to design, develop, test and market innovative solutions in-house. Its skilled and professional personnel include project managers and engineers, geotechnical, structural and marine engineers, naval architects and experienced offshore installation crews. “We have our own extensive design department that develops all of our concepts totally in-house,” says Mark. “Furthermore, within the Volker Wessels Stevin group of companies to which SPT Offshore belongs, our sister company VSF operates its own fabrication yard to manufacture SPT’s products. In doing this, we work closely with our clients carrying out FEED studies to develop EPIC solutions for their specific needs.”

Considering the future, Mark can see the company’s suction pile and self-installation concepts achieving much success in the market: “We operate with clients worldwide already but we are certainly looking to develop the self-installation side of the business further. It is an extremely hot market at the moment and we are already receiving a great deal of interest from various oil and gas companies.

“We are also looking to provide our products to customers in the wind energy sector – currently working on a large project offshore of Hong Kong where we are testing suction pile foundations for wind turbines. Overall I predict excellent opportunities for all of our products and hope that we can continue to be successful in the coming years,” he concludes.

SPT Offshore

Products: Suction pile foundations and self-installing platforms