After oil has been found and assessed, a facility must be brought on-site and installed to develop the oil field. The facility then begins extracting the oil so that it can be refined and sold.
There are three producing installations offshore Newfoundland and Labrador: the Hibernia Gravity Base Structure (GBS) and two FPSOs, the SeaRose and the Terra Nova.
A GBS is a fixed structure which sits on the seabed, has drilling and production topsides, and can store oil. An FPSO – Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading – vessel looks much like a ship with equipment on top (“topsides”) and has the ability to disconnect and move off location if needed.
Oil wells on the Grand Banks are drilled by separate drilling rigs, which connect the oil flow back to the installation through a network of subsea flowlines.
A fourth installation, the Hebron GBS, is under construction and oil production is expected to begin around the end of 2017.
Terra Nova FPSO
The Terra Nova oil field was discovered in 1984 and produced its first oil in 2002. Current estimates are that it has 516 million barrels of recoverable oil and is expected to produce until 2022.
The Terra Nova FPSO, which is in place to extract the oil, is one of the largest FPSO vessels ever built. It is 292.2 metres long and 45.5 metres wide – approximately the size of three football fields laid end to end. From the keel to the helideck, it stands more than 18 stories high. The Terra Nova FPSO can store 960,000 barrels of oil and accommodate up to 120 personnel while producing.
The White Rose field was discovered in 1984 and produced its first oil in 2005. It is currently estimated to hold 200-250 barrels of recoverable oil from the core field and another 200-250 barrels in its satellite extensions.
The SeaRose FPSO, which is in place to extract the White Rose oil, stretches 272 metres long by 46 metres wide. It has enough on-board capacity to hold 90 crew and 940,000 barrels of oil.
The Hibernia oil field was discovered in 1979 and produced its first oil in 1997. It has an estimated 1.2 million barrels of recoverable oil and is expected to produce beyond 2020.
The Hibernia gravity base structure (GBS), which is in place to extract Hibernia oil, is 224 metres high and weighs 1.2 million tons.
Hebron GBS (beginning 2017)
The Hebron oil field was discovered in 1980 and is estimated to hold more than 700 million barrels of recoverable resources.
The Hebron field will be developed using a gravity base structure (GBS), much like the Hibernia GBS. It will consist of a reinforced concrete structure designed to withstand sea ice, icebergs and meteorological and oceanographic conditions. It will be capable of storing approximately 1.2 million barrels of crude oil.
These installations extract oil so many of the positions involved are technical and/or hands-on in nature. They also involve working on a rotational basis, living on the rig for about 21 days, followed by 21 days off.
- Roughnecks – general labourers on an installation who are expected to do everything from washing and painting the rig to handling the bottom end of the drill pipe and tools as they are run into and pulled out of the well.
- Derrickmen – handle the top end of the drillpipe. Some roughnecks progress to this position with experience and good job performance.
- Drillers – run drillpipe into and out of the well and manage the crew on the drill floor.
- Drilling Superintendents –the senior oil company representatives on location and responsible for the overall drilling operations.
- OIMs (Offshore Installation Managers) – in charge of the offshore facility (similar to the Captain of a ship). The OIM is responsible for the overall safety of the installation and all personnel on board.
- Cementing Technicians – pump cement down the well. Cement is used to form a bond between the casing and the rock that was drilled out.
- Slickline Wireline Technicians – run mechanical tools into the well on piano wire. By manipulating the tools with upward and downward motions they can place equipment in the well to control it.
- Well Testing Technicians – flow a well through a small process facility to obtain information on the ability of a reservoir to produce hydrocarbons. The flow rate and pressure information is then used by Reservoir Engineers to update their reservoir models and improve their predictions about the potential of the reservoir.
- Mechanical Technicians – install and maintain mechanical equipment such as valves, motors, etc.
- Electrical Technicians – install and maintain electrical equipment.
- Quality Control Technicians – monitor the quality of finished products to confirm they are defect-free.
- Instrumentation technologists – assist in the development of methods of measuring and controlling processes.
- Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) Technicians – perform non-destructive testing inspections of equipment to confirm that it is still fit for purpose. Typical inspections include X-Ray, magnetic particle, dye penetrate, or ultrasonic testing.
- Tubular Drill Pipe Inspectors – inspect the threads on drill pipe, casing and tubing to ensure the threads have not been damaged.
- Offshore Radio Operators – maintain communication between the offshore facility and the mainland.
- Offshore Medics – provide medical support to all personnel while they are offshore.
- Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Technicians – use their Xbox skills to maneuver unmanned submarines around the offshore facilities. The submarines are used to enable people to look at equipment and manipulate valves and other objects remotely
Marine (FPSOs only):
- Captain – in ultimate command of the vessel and responsible for all aspects of the ship’s safe and efficient operation. Often need the highest Transport Canada certification level, which is Master Mariner.
- First Mates – top officer on board a ship, after the Captain. Also known as Chief Officer or First Officer. Frequently a watchkeeper and in charge of the ship’s cargo and deck crew. The First Mate takes over command of the ship in the absence of the Captain.
- Marine Engineers – maintain and operate the machinery and electrical and electronic equipment on board ship. There are usually multiple engineers on a vessel, including chief engineer, second engineer, etc.