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Offshore solution for Shell


Maintaining the reliability and quality of gas supplies from offshore production platforms relies on regular maintenance of plant and equipment on the platforms. Planned shutdowns, which usually take place in the summer months when demand is lower, enable vital servicing and upgrading to take place. However, although a platform may go offline in terms of gas production during the maintenance, the crew are usually still working on board. Essential services, such as hot water and heating, need to be provided during the shutdown periods.

Keeping their crew clean, properly fed and comfortable posed a potential problem for Shell recently when the company needed to shut down the three generators on its Clipper platform. The main operational generator and two standby units on Clipper not only supply electricity but also ensure that hot water is in plentiful supply. Using heat from the generators’ exhausts, water is heated prior to being used throughout the crews’ quarters. With planned outage for all generators, Shell needed to find an alternative source of water heating. The solution came in the form of a 500kW Hotmobil mobile boiler plant, supplied by heat for hire experts Andrews.

The SMS Group, based in Great Yarmouth, was called in by Shell to explore options for water heating. Without the generators, the operators were faced with the prospect of a complete shutdown, because of the need for a reliable supply of hot water and heating for the entire crew. SMS, who hold the contract to provide ongoing maintenance, both onshore and offshore, for Shell, looked at a number of alternatives. Originally the company considered hiring a number of temporary water heaters, but after contacting Andrews (part of the Andrews Sykes group) a better solution was proposed.

Andrews provide heating, chilling and air conditioning systems to industry for both temporary and permanent installations. The company, which has recently invested in the UK’s largest fleet of mobile boilers, came up with a modular, transportable solution for SMS and Shell. The Swiss engineered Hotmobil systems are completely self contained boiler plants, capable of being transported virtually anywhere, which can be used to provide hot water and heating 24 hours a day. The equipment was chosen because of its suitability for operating reliably in harsh environments and its portability.

Sole Pit, in the southern North Sea, is one of the most productive offshore gas fields in the region. Clipper, regarded as one of Shell’s best producers, processes gas from the unmanned Shell SNS satellite platforms prior to transferring the gas direct to Bacton Gas Terminal on the coast of Norfolk. The gas eventually finds its way into our homes via the Transco national distribution grid.

The Hotmobil was originally due to stay on the platform for eight weeks, ending in late 2005. However, the performance and reliability of the Andrews unit has delighted SMS and Shell so much that it is being kept in commission while further improvements are made to the general hot water system on the platform.

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