Northstar modules sail, destination North Slope
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On July 25, a Crowley Marine barge carrying two 10 story modules left Anchorage bound for BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.’s Northstar oil project in the Beaufort Sea.
Towed by Crowley tug Navigator, barge 400 carries BP’s “North” and “South” modules. The combined weight of the modules, which are designed to process crude oil, is 7,200 tons.
Two other barges carrying the gas compressor module, warehouse and flare boom will sail in the “next day or two,” Craig Tornga, Crowley’s general manager, told PNA July 26. The tugboat Ranger, which will pull those barges north, was delayed when a “wire fouled in the wheel,” he said.
The oil production facilities, the largest ever built in Alaska, are expected to arrive at the ice edge —between Wainwright and Barrow — in about 10 days.
“Our ice master is at Barrow. He will begin flying the ice daily, starting tomorrow,” Tornga said.
The ice master reports daily to the captains of the tugs while they make their way north, he said. It is his job to look for a channel large enough in the moving ice that the tugs and barges can move through on the one and a half day trip to North Star Island.
“Basically, we’ll be waiting for a window in the ice, which is melting and breaking up now. Sometimes we wait for weeks; other times just a few days. … It all depends on which way the wind blows. If it blows it toward shore, we wait; if it blows away from shore, we move,” Tornga said.
“Sometimes we miss a season,” he said.
A workforce of about 250 will be involved in unloading and installing the facilities, a BP spokesman said. (See related article on page A13 about the challenges associated with the positioning of the compressor module and flare boom at Northstar Island.)
Last year’s one-barge sealift from Anchorage included Northstar’s permanent living quarters, tank skid and pipe racks.
BP said the major contractors involved in construction of the production facilities were VECO Engineering, VECO Construction, Arctic Structures Inc., Rockford Inc. and North Star Terminal and Stevedoring.
Other contractors involved in the Northstar project were Mustang Engineering, Alaska Interstate Construction, Alaska Petroleum Contractors, HC Price, Flowline Inc. and Houston Contracting Co.
Located about six miles from Prudhoe Bay in the Beaufort Sea, the Northstar field is scheduled to begin oil production late this year. It contains approximately 176 million barrels of recoverable oil. Production is expected to peak at about 65,000 barrels per day.
BP, the field operator, holds a 98 percent interest in the field; Murphy Oil holds a 1.92 percent interest.