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Overhauling an engine on an offshore rig invariably involves delays. Unexpected issues mean required parts and tooling aren’t available on board, and getting them to remote locations can take days or even weeks. Wasted time leads to lost revenue — sometimes hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. So should offshore drilling companies just accept and prepare for the inevitable? Noble Corporation doesn’t think so.
“If we have to wait for a part with a lead time of six weeks, we can’t progress the overhaul any further. That means we have to send the technicians home, wait till the part arrives, then remobilize,” says Kevin Milne, regional maintenance manager for Noble. “The whole time the engine is down, our client is looking at us, wondering why we’re not up and running and making money. There has to be another way.”
Equipped for Every Possibility
Inspiration for another way came during a high-level meeting in Dubai involving Noble, Caterpillar and Cat® dealer Al-Bahar. Noble’s worldwide maintenance director at the time, the late Ron Swan, saw the potential for a “support container” that could ship everything needed for an engine overhaul offshore. A standardized solution equipped for every contingency made sense to everyone involved.
“We started looking into it right away to see if it was something that could be done, and it grew very quickly from there,” says Dennis Hohne, Al-Bahar’s technical support manager for engines. “We started building a solution based on our experience with these overhauls and by anticipating what issues might cause delays. In the end, it was the brainchild of two partners sitting together trying to find a solution.”
“It” is the C175 Support Container, a full-size shipping unit housing all the parts and tools needed to perform a top-end or complete overhaul of a Cat C175 engine. This first-of-its-kind container also includes parts that may be required for any “over and above” issues, as well as tooling specially adapted for use on board — enabling service technicians to turn the engine block quickly and safely without any rigging, for example.
“We were very impressed with how well thought out it was,” says Vincent Kondratski, who manages electrical and electronic maintenance for Noble. “It’s well lit inside and out. There’s an overhead trolley system with a hoist that makes it easy to get parts out of the container.”
The C175 Support Container also comes with an inventoried list of parts, so technicians can check off exactly what’s used and Al-Bahar can invoice the customer accordingly.
“They really thought of everything,” Kondratski says. “Everything we require for the engine is in there, and we’re only billed for what the technicians actually use to complete the overhaul.”
In fact, the only disappointing aspect for the Noble team is that Swan didn’t get to see the C175 Support Container completed. He passed away unexpectedly in July 2017.
“Ron was a great support in getting the container to where it is today,” Milne says. “It’s a shame he never saw it come to fruition.”
Time Saved Equals Money Earned
Noble’s first use of the C175 Support Container occurred on a rig that was in port, so the company hasn’t yet seen the full benefits of shipping it offshore for an overhaul — but the maintenance team has no doubt the time and money saved will be significant.
“Worst-case scenario, if we have a crankshaft failure on a C175, having this container on board could easily save us a month or more,” Kondratski says. “For rigs in the Far East, due to shipping times, it will save us at least a week even for smaller issues. Even in a best-case scenario, where everything goes as planned, it’ll save us a couple of extra days.”
That savings in time can translate into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in revenue.
“In certain operations, we can run on reserve power, but in others our clients will not proceed on reserve power for safety’s sake,” Kondratski says. “That means the vessel is shut down and there’s a complete loss of revenue until we can get the engine up and running.”
There are big savings involved for Al-Bahar as well, given that the dealer’s service technicians are in high demand. Now, when an offshore rig’s engine needs service, Al-Bahar will be able to ship the C175 Support Container to the vessel in advance of the technicians’ arrival. Once the overhaul is complete, the technicians can head off to other jobs, and the dealer will arrange to have the container shipped back on shore.
“It’s a win for them, because they know exactly how many days their technicians will be on the job,” Kondratski says. “And it’s a win for us because we can budget a specific amount of time and money for an overhaul.”
A Relationship Built on Shared Goals
That type of “win-win” solution is something that Noble has come to expect from Caterpillar and Al-Bahar. The companies have worked together for more than two decades, and both Milne and Kondratski describe the relationship as “second to none.”
“The collaboration we have with Al-Bahar and Caterpillar, the support we receive, makes our lives a lot easier,” Milne says. “They’re very open to new ideas and new ways of supporting our business, and this container is a prime example of that.”
For Al-Bahar, it’s all about providing the aftermarket support that sets Caterpillar and its engines apart in the oil and gas industry.
“One of the main reasons Noble chooses Cat engines is the service Cat dealers are able to provide across the world,” Hohne says. “In the oil industry, when you start losing time, you start losing money. We wanted to help Noble find a way to buy back that lost time and revenue — because we know that when they make money, we make money.”
Next up: expanding the fleet. While the C175 Support Container is the only one in the world right now, it won’t stay that way for long. Al-Bahar is assessing the need for additional units as well as creating another version to support Cat 3500 engines. At the same time, Noble is talking with Cat dealer Tractors Singapore Limited about the possibility of staging another C175 Support Container in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Al-Bahar grasped this idea with open arms, and we hope other dealers will do the same,” Milne says. “There’s certainly potential around the world.”