Floating systems have been utilized in offshore areas without pipeline infrastructure for many years. However, they have become more and more important with the push by the offshore industry into ever deeper waters. Floating Production Storage and Offloading/Floating Storage and Offloading (FPSO/FSO) systems have now become one of the most commercially viable concepts for remote or deepwater oil field developments.

Maersk Oil Qatar project

Euronav's initial exposure to those markets was with VLCC deployments in the Gulf and in West Africa back in 1994. The Maersk Oil Qatar (MOQ) project (cfr. below) was engaged in because of the specific assets that Euronav owned: two of the only four V-plus vessels that exist in the world, the TI Asia (which belonged to Euronav) and the TI Africa (which belonged to OSG, now International Seaways Inc.). TI Europe (fully owned by Euronav) is one of the only two remaining unconvertred V-Plus vessels worldwide.

The Company strongly believes that the long-term employment of this, not yet converted unit, lies in the offshore market. Most of the new oil field discoveries are done offshore and many of them are gigantic oil fields (Brazil, West Africa, Australia) which should require very large FSOs. Euronav therefore believes there will be a demand for this unit by offshore field operators.

By engaging in the MOQ project, Euronav re-entered the offshore market. In 2010, MOQ awarded two contracts for the provision of FSO services on the Al Shaheen oil field offshore Qatar. The TI Asia and TI Africa underwent an extensive conversion to FSO. They have the capacity to process and store approximately 2.8 million barrels of crude oil each. Both custom-made units have been operating on the Al Shaheen oil field without interruption ever since.

FSO crude oil extraction process

The FSOs process crude oil extracted from a reservoir below the sea floor through a single point mooring system. Oil and water fluids are transferred through an underwater pipeline to the FSO where the oil and water are heated, accelerating the separation of the two organic compounds. Once separated, oil is transferred to separate storage cargo tanks and then offloaded to export vessels. Water is treated, purified and returned to the underwater source reservoir or directly to the sea.

Type V-Plus
Size FSO Africa 442,000 dwt
Size FSO Asia 442,000 dwt
Built 2002
Conversion year 2009-2010
Storage capacity 2,800,000 barrels
Overall length of the vessels 380 m
Breadth 68 m
Depth 34 m
Draught 24.53 m

Euronav's offshore department

In 2011 the company has established an offshore department to take advantage of this development. Euronav had two good assets for involvement in developing its own division of offshore operations. These are high-quality shipping assets which, as they could become commercially obsolete because of their age, can find life extension in the offshore market as they were maintained to the highest standards.

The second asset is high-quality seafarers and engineers who are capable of working in a different environment.

The department has been set the goal of finding and bidding on projects that are sufficiently shipping oriented to suit these specific high-quality vessels in the Euronav fleet that can be converted and operated with the capabilities available within the company.