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Vol. 15, No. 38 Week of September 19, 2010
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Arctic Directory: Sitka marine launches new seismic boat

Geokinetics, which recently acquired PGS Onshore, takes delivery of 3 special-built catamarans this summer

Petroleum News

In mid-May, Allen Marine launched a unique catamaran that will be used by PGS Onshore, recently purchased by Geokinetics, for seismic-related work in the Beaufort Sea. It is the third such vessel the Houston-based Geokinetics has had the Sitka boat builder build, a contract that Allen Marine officials said was approaching $4 million.

The seismic work was planned for the Canadian Beaufort Sea and managed by Geokinetics Canadian office. The Alaska office planned to send some of its people with Alaska Beaufort Sea experience to assist them. That PGS office is managed by Chuck Robinson and Larry Watt, who will remain in the same positions for Geokinetics.

The contract has kept about 30 skilled laborers extremely busy for more than 12 months.

On May 10 the third boat, the Geo Tiger II, underwent a brief sea trial at Allen Marine’s Sawmill Creek Road headquarters.

A 64-foot aluminum boat with a split hull, the boat has to be disassembled and placed onto trucks for the long trip north.

“It’s been a neat process, it’s totally different from what we normally do,” said Ken Baker, who managed the project for the Southeast Alaska boat building company.

Baker and Tom Scheidt, an Allen Marine vice president, watched as the Geo Tiger II was dropped into the waters of Jamestown Bay by a Travelift and pulled to a nearby slip by another Allen boat.

Boat launches are old hat at Allen, and Baker pointed out that most of the workers did not venture outside the shop to see the catamaran’s short voyage.

Anything but typical

But the catamarans Allen is building for Geokinetics are anything but typical.

Baker said Geokinetics wanted an entirely mobile fleet, and provided Allen with a design for boats that could be broken down into pieces that could fit on standard shipping trucks.

Baker said the boats Allen recently completed could be transported by truck, train, or even airplane.

“They need to be able to move them quickly to any place in the world,” Baker said.

After the May 10 sea trials, the boat’s generators were tested and the catamarans were scheduled to leave Sitka in early June. There were eventually barged to Skagway, then loaded onto a truck for the drive north to Canada’s Beaufort Sea coast.

Due in Mackenzie Bay July 15

The boats were due in Mackenzie Bay July 15. Once there, a team of eight to 10 Allen workers, overseen by Baker, put the boats back together.

“This is not going to be an IKEA assembly,” Baker said this spring, noting he had to make sure the members of his team had passports and were allowed to travel to Canada.

When asked if the prospect of putting the boats back together was daunting, Baker laughed.

“It’s a very large sequence to carry out,” Baker said this spring, adding, “We know every aspect of these boats in detail. That’s going be an advantage.”

Baker explained that the three boats will eventually work as part of a team. Each is equipped with two 600-horsepower motors, and the boats are designed to go 10 to 11 knots.

The Geo Tiger II is a “gun boat” that will tow two large skiffs equipped with “compressed-air shotguns.” The other two catamarans, or line boats, will follow behind, laying cable.

In describing the seismic process, Baker said compressed air is fired at the sea bed, and the reverberations are captured by the cables, creating a map.

Geokinetics then sells the information to oil companies, which subsequently use it for oil and gas exploration.

Hull of each can be broken into three pieces

Officials from Geokinetics traveled to Sitka from Houston earlier this year to take a look at the vessels. At first, Geokinetics planned to handle the transport and reassembly of the boats. But the company decided it would be best to have the boat builders on hand to put them back together.

The hull of each catamaran can be broken into three pieces. Each boat’s wheelhouse can also be removed, and broken in two. Baker said each boat has about 4,000 connecting bolts and two generators.

They’re designed to work in remote areas, and each is equipped with plenty of spare parts.

Baker said that after the work in Canada is complete, the boats will be sent to the Gulf of Mexico or Australia.

Scheidt said the boats would have been perfect skimmers during the spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico.

Geokinetics officials were apparently pleased with what they saw during their trip, and Scheidt is optimistic that Allen will get more work from the company.

“We’re pretty confident we’ll be the boat builders,” he said.

In February, Geokinetics purchased the onshore seismic data acquisition and multiclient data library business of PGS. The combination of the two companies makes Geokinetics the second largest provider of onshore seismic data acquisition services in the world in terms of crew count, and the largest based in the Western Hemisphere.

The acquisition, Geokinetics said, builds on its strengths in transition zone, ocean bottom cable and land vibroseis data acquisition and adds new operating areas including Alaska and Mexico, as well as certain new countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

—The Associated Press contributed to this article. Most of the information came from an article by Craig Giammona, published in the Daily Sitka Sentinel.

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