A look at Ceona’s Polar Onyx PLSV

Claudio Paschoa

September 1, 2014

Claudio Paschoa takes a look at Ceona’s vertical pipelay vessel, Polar Oynx, now serving Petrobras offshore Brazil.

Polar Onyx  in the Storfjord in Norway. Photo from Norsk Skipsfarts Forum.

With Petrobras’ decision to speed up pipe lay capacity needed for pre-salt and other deepwater plays to become operational, today Brazil boasts the largest number of pipelay vessels in the world and there are more to be built.

One of the modern deepwater PLSVs to operate in Brazil is the Polar Onyx, with its peculiar Ulstein X-bow design. The vessel was formally christened at the Ulstein yard in Ulsteinvik, Norway on 28 February 2014. From there it sailed to Huisman’s yard in Schiedam, The Netherlands, for final outfitting.

The Polar Onyx is currently on a five-year charter with Ceona for pipelay work at Petrobras’ Espirito Santo basin in southeast Brazil, with options for up to five more years. The PLSV is based on ULSTEIN’s SX121 design, for operations in the deepwater SURF/construction/IRM markets, with high capacity for flexible pipe loads.

The vessel owner, GC Rieber, was founded in 1879 and is known for its expertise in harsh environment offshore operations and for the design, development, and maritime operation of seismic vessels. Ceona, on the other hand, is a young company, founded in early 2012, targeting the growing global deepwater SURF and subsea construction market. Ceona has a small but growing fleet of multi-functional pipelay and construction vessels, including an interesting, new field development vessel, the Ceona Amazon.

Ceona considers its financial stability to be one of its four pillars, along with their assets, their strategic partnerships, and the execution experience found within their team. With solid financial backing from major shareholder, Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, Ceona looks to have the financial strength to support its ambitious strategy. Ceona belongs to Goldman Sach’s portfolio of rapidly growing companies in oil and gas and renewable energy, like Expro, Cobalt and Dong Energy. With such backing, Ceona managed to complete, in April 2014, a US$290 million secured debt facility to finance two newbuild projects, the Ceona Amazon and the Polar Onyx VLS, along with performance bonds to further support the company’s growth initiatives. In 2012, Ceona acquired Project Development International (PDi), which has offered offshore field development and engineering solutions to the oil & gas industry since 2003.

Polar Onyx PLSV.Photo from Ceona Offshore.

The vessel

The Polar Onyx is a high-capacity flexible pipelay and construction vessel designed for operations in harsh conditions and deep waters. With a length of 426ft (130m) and a 82ft (25m) beam, it is built to the highest standard for dynamic positioning, DP3 (Operation +), and equipped with a 250t AHC offshore crane. It is fitted with a 275mt vertical-lay system above a moonpool, which is capable of installing flexible pipe and umbilicals of 2in. to 25in. OD in water to 10,000ft (3000m) deep. The vessel is designed to operate in the SURF/construction/IRM market, with capacity for 2000t of flexible pipe on its deck-mounted carousel. The ship can accommodate 130 crewmembers and is built according to the latest international environmental standards (CLEAN design with Green Passport).

The vessel was classed by DNV, and meets the highest standards for station keeping, redundancy and dynamic positioning (DP3). Moreover, operability in DP2 operational mode is maximized due to GC Rieber’s Operation+ feature, which allows the vessel to continue and retain system integrity with uninterrupted operations even after a substantial single system failure — a vital trait in reducing downtime and increasing operational safety. “We are extremely pleased with the maiden contract of the Polar Onyx, working as a subsea construction vessel for Petrobras through our strategic partnership with Odebrecht Oil & Gas. She has already worked in more than 1700m water and is answering well to our client’s demanding requirements. Our collaboration with OOG is also very satisfactory,” said Ceona’s CEO Steve Preston.

Ceona’s Polar Onyx offshore Brazil. Photo from Ceona Offshore

Propulsion system

The Polar Onyx is powered by a diesel electric plant, comprising of six identical 3673hp generator sets. It has 22,037hp of installed power generation capacity and 20,482hp of thrust power, and boasts DP3 (Operation +), DNV dynpos AUTRO, Kongsberg DP3 (Operation +). Abiding to their forward thinking philosophy, environmental responsibility was a key consideration in the construction of the Polar Onyx, which was designed for minimal environmental impact during operations. This includes efficient use of fuel and energy due to the inverted bow design of its hull. The Polar Onyx has already proved to possess excellent sea-keeping characteristics and benefits from the increased safety and power efficiencies afforded by its Ulstein X-bow design. The inverted bow notoriously suffers less speed loss in rough seas, thereby improving fuel efficiency and transit speeds. All major pumps, motors and fans are driven by variable speed drives, to match demand. All propulsion motors are also driven by variable speed drives to reduce idling power consumption.

Deepwater flexible pipelay and subsea construction capabilities

This PLSV is a real workhorse and its multipurpose nature is a key factor of the design. The Polar Onyx has already undertaken deepwater construction work for Petrobras at the Roncador field and Ceona says it is well-regarded by Petrobras. A high-capacity flexible pipelay and construction vessel, the Polar Onyx is equipped with a 250t AHC offshore crane, rated to 3000m.

It can be used to install pipe and umbilicals to depths of 10,000ft (3000m) with the 275mt vertical lay system built by Huisman. The two moonpools offer extra versatility for construction jobs in rough weather, with one of the ROVs being launched through a moon-pool.