KPC Review

Auger’s 500 tonne rig working in Shaybah

Auger’s 500 tonne rig working in Shaybah

Azmeel poised to expand in region

The firm’s reputation for high performance and quality standards in Saudi Arabia will underpin an expansion drive wherever the specialist driller’s technology is required

IN LATE 2014, Azmeel Thrust Boring Company – a specialised division of Saudi Arabia’s diversified Azmeel Group of companies – embarked on one of its biggest, and arguably most challenging and complex projects since it was established more than three years ago.

The project called for a total of 15,800 metres of Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) to be carried out as part of the Aramco GOSP 3 project to raise oil production at Shaybah, one of the world’s most prolific – and remote – onshore oilfields.

According to Azmeel, a specialist drilling technology provider, HDD activities cover 10 locations at the field over the next 10 months. This will involve the installation of 24” and 12” steel pipes under sand dunes up to 100 metres high, with crossing lengths varying from 1,200 metres to 2,100 metres long.

For Ian Logan, the company’s project director, the ongoing Shaybah HDD subcontract, awarded by rig equipment rental firm Bin Quraya, is a true test of Azmeel’s credentials – whether that’s the robust drilling technology it is deploying at this remote location, the expertise which ensures the project delivers on Aramco’s exacting expectations, or the uncompromising standards of excellence demonstrated.

Logan says one of the keys to success at Shaybah – where after the first crossing in February this year Aramco expressed satisfaction about the increased resulting production levels – is the integrity and reliability of the equipment.

“Anybody can buy equipment. But we buy the best of everything. None of it is more than two and a half years old. It is the latest specification technology. You need reliable equipment at a place like Shaybah – you can’t have a weak link,” he explains.

“We have the support of a prominent Saudi family (Al Jabr) who is prepared to invest to serve the market. They have already committed $100 million to new equipment for ongoing and future projects.

We have also brought in key personnel specifically for this project who have rich experience at planning and executing projects of this nature and performing to the highest standards to deliver results in remote locations.”

Drilling on the first of 10 crossings began on February 19, using Azmeel’s 200 tonne DD440 rig, and this was completed on schedule exactly a month later with the 1,250 metre crossing of 24” diameter steel pipe successfully installed some 50 metres under Shaybah’s red dunes.

Now, according to Logan, Azmeel is mobilising to drill a 1,500 metre crossing with 24” steel pipe, using the 500 tonne DD1100 rig recently acquired, further elevating the company’s capabilities.

“We have assembled a highly experienced team with all the essential equipment to support drilling to the highest standard for this high profile Aramco project,” says Logan, who also pays tribute to Bin Quraya, the pipeline partner at Shaybah.

“They have been very proactive in supporting both the pipeline preparation work and the drilling operations at all times,” he says.

Work on Aramco projects accounts for about half of Azmeel Thrust Boring’s business, with the balance split among projects for telecoms and utility companies in Saudi Arabia such as Saudi Telecoms Company (STC), SWCC and SCECO.

“The equipment we use has been very highly recommended by (utility company) Marafiq in Jubail, where we have deployed this in the last two years.

“We are now looking to do work for Aramco refineries, where the location of utilities may be unknown. This technique is safe and minimises plant damage,” Logan stresses.

The project director says Azmeel’s reputation for high performance and quality standards in Saudi Arabia will underpin an expansion drive “wherever our technology is needed”.

In addition to HDD, activities currently focus on tunnelling, pipe jacking, pipe rammimg, Auger boring, shaft sinking and pipeline rehabilitation works.

“We want to expand, but sustainably, and we are pricing projects outside Saudi Arabia now.”

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