Tallest, biggest, deepest…and craziest:

Ten oil industry world records you may not have heard of

Gigantic platforms, amazing feats of engineering—and the world’s deepest concert, performed by Katie Melua on the seabed. The oil industry is full of world records. Here are ten of them.

Can you imagine oil rigs standing on legs twice as tall as a 40-storey hotel? Or a full-scale factory on the bottom of the ocean? Complex challenges in the oil industry require constant innovation. The history of oil is a story of breaking barriers—and world records.

Sometimes weather conditions make exploration challenging; sometimes a discovery lies far from existing infrastructure. Whatever the challenge, constant innovation and engineering allows us to extract oil from wells that were previously impossible to reach, produce energy more safely and with fewer emissions. And along the way, some of these innovations also break world records. Some of them you might have heard of, while others are less familiar. 

1. “The closest thing to crazy”—the world’s deepest concert

(Check back soon for the film documentary of the world's deepest concert: "Katie Melua—Concert under the Sea")

The gas rig is actually much more futuristic and high-tec than I thought it would be. It reminds me a bit of “Aliens”, that’s kind of cool!”

Katie Melua

Katie Melua holding the diploma awarded by Craig Glenday of the Guinness Book of Records to Geir Amland, production director of Troll at the time

Sometimes the strangest things happen on platforms out in the ocean. It was the stuff of dreams or, perhaps, to use her own words: “the closest thing to crazy”: Katie Melua singing Nine Million Bicycles on a stage 288.5 metres below the sea. 

And what an event it was! Katie and her band underwent rigorous safety training while 22 tonnes of equipment were transported by 16 helicopters and three supply ships to the rig—and then the whole lot had to be moved to the bottom of the sea.

It was the world’s deepest concert ever, held at the bottom of the platform shaft of Equinor’s Troll A platform in 2006 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of gas production beginning from the Troll field. Katie performed a repertoire of songs and guitar music, and was accompanied on the piano for one of the songs by our platform manager of Troll A at the time, Jan Hauge.

The audience included Craig Glenday, editor of the Guinness Book of Records, who was there to confirm and verify that the record had really been broken. 

2.  The rigs with the world’s tallest legs 

Transporting the Cat J super-rigs Askeladden and Askepott from Korea to Norway. The adjustable legs are over 200 metres long.

In the autumn of 2017, the first of Equinor’s two new Cat J super-rigs Askeladden and Askepott were delivered from the shipyards in Korea. They have jack-up legs 200 metres (650 feet) tall, almost twice as high as a 40-storey hotel—the second longest legs in the world. 

The record for the world’s longest rig legs is held by Noble Lloyd Noble, with legs 214 metres (702 feet) tall. 

Equinor’s jack-up Cat J rigs are designed to operate in water depths from 70 to 140 metres, and drill wells as deep as 10,000 metres below the sea bed. They are built to perform effective drilling operations for underwater developments in addition to conventional drilling.

Their towers can handle 40-metre drill pipes automatically to increase efficiency of operation, and drilll pipes can be connected while drilling—so-called parallel operations. The rigs have been commissioned to achieve the highest possible recovery rates from profitable reserves—and can also be used for exploration drilling.

Watch the sea transport of the Cat J rigs Askeladden and Askepott in the video below:

3.  Aasta Hansteen—the world’s largest spar platform

aasta-hansteen-substructure
Boskalis
Aasta Hansteen was transported from Korea to Norway, around the cape of Africa—a distance equivalent to 640 marathons. With the Dockwise Vanguard partially submerged, only the ship’s superstructure and the spar hull are visible above the water.

The world’s largest spar platform is named after the 19th century Norwegian painter and writer Aasta Hansteen, and has been built to produce gas from the field that lies in deep water, 300 km northwest of Sandnessjøen. 

A spar platform floats vertically like a buoy in the water, and is anchored to the seabed. The solution makes it possible to develop the gas field located in waters 1300 metres deep. (A similar but smaller variant is seen in our Hywind floating wind turbines.)

Aasta Hansteen’s hull is 200 meters high and 50 meters in diameter. By comparison, Big Ben is almost 100 meters high. The hull alone weighs 46,000 tonnes and is the largest of its kind in the world.

It took two months to transport Aasta Hansteen from the shipyard in South Korea to Norway, in a voyage halfway around the world: 14,500 nautical miles, 26,900 km—or over 640 marathons. The hull and platform deck were shipped on the world's largest heavy-duty vessels, Dockwise Vanguard and Dockwise White Marlin, respectively.

Production drilling at Aasta Hansteen is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Photo: Aker Solutions /Equinor

4.  The world’s first compression plant on the seabed

75 meters long, 45 meters wide and 20 meters high: Åsgard provides subsea compression on the bottom of the sea, and will be in operation for many years to come.

It might seem incredible that an entire factory could be built under the sea—but Åsgard is a compression plant the size of a football pitch that is also the world’s first factory on the seabed.

It has been designed to increase recovery from the existing Åsgard field, by compressing gas sufficiently to enable it to be piped to the platform.

Gas compression is necessary to compensate for the falling pressure in the reservoir. Seabed compressors are more efficient than traditional compressors located on the platform because they are closer to the wellhead, and the compression plant can therefore help to increase the field's recovery rate and extend its service life.

5.  Troll A—The world’s largest concrete platform  

Shell /Equinor
The Troll A platform being towed out to sea. It took seven days to move this monumental construction out to the Troll field

Towering 472 metres above the surface of the sea, the Troll A platform was not only the largest concrete platform ever delivered, but also the tallest man-made construction ever moved on Earth's surface.

In 1995, the platform and its substructure were towed over 200 kilometres from Rogaland county in western Norway out to the Troll field, 80 kilometres northwest of Bergen. Ten years after it came on stream in 2006, this same platform played host to Katie Melua’s subsea concert featured at the top of this story.

It took over 2000 people more than four years to build, and is still considered one of the most complex engineering projects in history, and the pinnacle of achievement for concrete platforms. The platform was also the first on the Norwegian Continental Shelf to be powered by electricity from shore. 

6.  The world’s highest oil price

As the lifeblood of the industrialised nations, oil has been the world’s most important source of energy since the mid-1950s. Its products underpin society, powering vehicles and air transport, supplying energy to the power industry, heating homes and supplying the raw materials for plastics and petrochemicals.

The price of oil has a vast impact on the global economy, and at the same time, sends important signals about world economic development.

In recent years, we have seen an oil price that has fallen from its peak far beyond USD 100 per barrel in 2008 to a range between 30 and 60 dollars. Although oil never reached the USD 200 per barrel mark that some people predicted, the New York Stock Exchange with a record oil price of USD 145.61 per barrel (for Brent crude) on July 3rd, 2008. 

Oil barrels photo

7.  The world's longest producing oil well

Wikimedia Commons
The world’s oldest producing well, the McClintock Well No. 1 in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Production has slowed to a trickle, and it is pumped using a replica of the original oil pump.

Although the first oil from the Norwegian continental shelf was in 1971, oil production in the US began as early as the 1860s. In Pennsylvania, USA, The McClintock Well No. 1 was drilled in August 1861, and is still producing—just—today.

Many of the towns that sprang up during the oil rush are now abandoned, and have little or no remaining oil production. But in Titusville, Pennsylvania, one of the landmarks in US oil history, there’s a well that has been producing oil ever since its inception.

The McClintock Well No. 1 was drilled in August 1861, and at its peak, it produced 50 barrels per day. Now it’s operated by the Drake Oil Museum and is pumped two or three times a year to be kept alive, with an annual output of a mere 30 to 40 barrels—three quarters of which is salt water.

By comparison, the oldest producing well on the Norwegian shelf was drilled in 1978, and is located on the Eldfisk field south of the North Sea.

8.  Norway’s most productive field

Troll has often been called the backbone of Norwegian oil and gas production, and with good reason: vast amounts of both oil and gas have been extracted since it came on stream in 1996.

Annette Westgard
Norway's most producing field consists of Troll East, Troll Vest Gas Province and Troll Vest Oil Pipeline. The picture is of the Troll A platform

In January 2003 production from the Troll A gas field surpassed five million Sm3 oil equivalents per month: three billion Sm3 gas and two billion Sm3 oil. Troll’s capacity is more than 100 million Smper day. The field extends over 750 km2 and is located in the northern part of the North Sea.

Not only that, but Troll B and C have been the Norwegian continental shelf’s largest oil producer in the last three years. Troll B will soon pass three times the production that was expected when the field was opened.

Troll is considered the most valuable field on the Norwegian continental shelf, calculated in terms of total recoverable assets of oil, gas, NGL and condensates. It is by far the largest ever gas find in the North Sea, and is also one of the world's largest gas fields overall. Nevertheless, it’s far from being the largest. Despite its impressive volume of 1332 billion standard cubic metres of gas, it still falls short of the world record holder, the South Pars / North Dome field in the Persian Gulf, with 51 trillion cubic meters of proven gas resources.

The Troll field will continue to play a central role in Europe's energy security for many years to come.

9.  Norway’s largest oil field

Øyvind Hagen
Statfjord A

Statfjord has been running continuously since it opened in 1979, and is one of the true giants of the Norwegian continental shelf. It’s also one of the most famous concrete structures on the NCS. Although the Ekofisk field has larger reserves, the recovery rates at Statfjord are higher. 

Some of the workers at Statfjord have worked here since the 1980s, and they have that special bond that’s unique to small, isolated communities like this one. For many of them, a big driver to work there is the spirit of a community working together to power Norway and the North Sea’s largest oil field.

Statfjord has played a major role for Norway, technologically and economically, and is one of the oldest on the Norwegian continental shelf.

Statfjord consists of the Statfjord A, B and C platforms, producing crude oil and natural gas. It was discovered in 1974 by the US oil company Mobil, and was declared commercial in August that year.

Production began in 1979, and on January 16, 1987, the production record for a single day was set when 850,204 barrels of oil were produced—more than the total daily production in the Gulf of Mexico. In total, it is estimated that the original amount of oil in place was 3.3 billion barrels.

By comparison, the world's largest offshore oil field, the Safayna field offshore Saudi Arabia, operated by Saudi Aramco, has a total oil reserve of 50 billion barrels, of which 36 billion are considered recoverable. 

10.  The world’s northernmost LNG-plant

Hammerfest LNG, popularly known as Melkøya, is located just outside Hammerfest in Finnmark. It is the northernmost LNG plant in the world, far inside the Arctic Circle. 

The Snøhvit field lies far out at sea, 160 km north of the county of Finnmark, deep inside the Arctic Circle. Although the gas field may have little in common with its fairy-tale namesake Snow White, for the community here in Hammerfest, the development of the field has been an economic adventure.

Here, employees produce refrigerated, liquid gas called LNG—and say working at the Melkøya plant is like “working in a freezer.” It’s not just that it’s cold outside—the gas needs to be cooled too.

When natural gas is cooled to -161 degrees Celsius (minus 259 degrees Fahrenheit), it becomes a clear, colourless, odourless liquid that can be more easily transported by tanker—hence the need for the plant. Once piped aboard a special LNG gas tanker, it can be shipped around the world.

This LNG plant is the northernmost of its kind in the world, and starts by separating condensate, water and CO2 from the wellstream pipeline, which has a capacity of 7.6 million Sm3 per year.

The gas itself is converted to LNG and stored in dedicated tanks, while CO2 is also separated from natural gas and returned to the Snøhvit field, where it is injected into a separate formation under the reservoirs. The gas from Snøhvit is transported around the world with specially built LNG ships.

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