Holding all the Aces

As PGS welcomes its fourth Ramform Titan-class into the fold, it presents a younger, stronger, and more flexible fleet than ever before. Fleet renewal has made way for more efficiency and even more technology.

Ramform Hyperion built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Shipbuilding Co. in Nagasaki, Japan was delivered to PGS this month and celebrated in a naming ceremony on 22 March 2017. This is the fourth of the biggest, safest, most powerful and most versatile class of seismic vessels afloat. With the four Titan-class boats, PGS holds all the aces. Add to that two enormously reliable and capable S-class Ramform vessels and it is safe to conclude that PGS is all-in with the "Fleet to Beat".

Much has been written over the years about the shape and size of the Titan-class. The unusual shape, with ultra-broad stern versus length, has been mathematically modeled for optimal stability, with all the traditional Ramform space advantages in the pot as well. At 104 meters long and 70 meters wide at the stern, these are not the biggest boats afloat but they are bigger where it matters most for seismic. This has permitted the designers to marry the most modern maritime technology with the futuristic imaging capabilities of the multi-sensor GeoStreamer® seismic acquisition package. To re-cap for anyone who has forgotten, the back deck of a Titan houses 24 streamer reels - 16 aligned abreast across the stern and another 8 reels further forward, each of these drums can hold 12 kilometers of dual-sensor streamer. That alone is a significant investment. With four Titan-class in their hand, PGS has made a $1.1 billion bet that bigger is still better and that the age of hydrocarbon exploration isn't over yet.

So what is the logic from an investment perspective? CEO Jon Erik Reinhardsen explains:
"PGS only invests capital in newbuilds when differentiation can be achieved over a substantial part of the vessel's useful life in order to maximize return on the investment. We believe Ramform Hyperion and the three other Ramform Titan-class vessels are examples of such unique assets."

Since 1995, PGS strategy has been to increase the productivity of its seismic vessels. With the Ramform vessels, it quickly became clear that larger spreads could deliver eye-popping economies of scale. Initially, there was some skepticism among our peers as to the need for larger spreads, and with each new and larger generation of Ramform the rumbles have returned. Now though, there are fewer and fewer voices in the crowd. The trend towards larger surveys has continued pretty much unabated, and our industry has seen the benefits of larger and more capable vessels, in cost per kilometer, allied with reliability through built-in redundancy.

These are the most cost efficient seismic vessel afloatThe radical design provides significantly better cost efficiency than other seismic vessels

In contrast, many other contractors have focused on existing conservative solutions at the time of construction, making modest savings on investment upfront, but at the expense of long-term viability. That strategy has proven to be irrational over time. A growing market preference for larger surveys has rendered the vessel portfolios of several other contractors sub-optimal in less than a decade.

All Survey Types

"These vessels can tow more streamers than any other vessel as well as tow extremely wide streamer spreads. Hence, surveys can be tailor-made to meet our customers' needs, be it the highest possible data quality or the most efficient coverage of a large exploration area," says Per Arild Reksnes, Executive Vice President Operations.

The PGS fleet covers all the bases from high density to large-spread efficiencyThe PGS fleet covers all the bases from high density to large-spread efficiency

Everything suggests that seismic surveys will continue to grow, as the industry drives for even greater value for money in its search for new energy reserves. There will be even more towed equipment, towed wider and longer. And, it is likely that the number and type of recording units deployed will be ever greater. The PGS fleet is built for this. New acquisition geometries continue to spawn, as smart geophysicists find new angles of approach to complex subsurface imaging challenges. Safe storage, towing and handling of ever more gear onboard and in the water will require power, space and skilled operators. All of which the PGS fleet has in spades.

Evolution of contract survey sizes over timeThe growth in survey sizes is a long-term trend and looks set to continue

Profitable Powerhouse

In addition to quality and reliability, long-term durability has been considered in every element. On the latest Ramform Titan-class, the mutually redundant power plants are equipped with six engines that deliver a combined 26400kW to drive three 6000 kW controllable-pitch propellers. As equipment failure is expensive, there is plenty of redundancy. Big boats burn more fuel but large efficient operations require fewer vessel hours to complete a project. On the Titan-class, a fuel-efficient acquisition speed of 5 knots can be maintained while towing multiple sources and 15 sq. km of submerged recording and positioning equipment. Endurance in transit is 120 days and in full operation is up to 100 days. In remote locations, this can make an important difference to project safety margins and access to high quality, low-cost fuel. There is also less exposure to risk and fewer emissions.

Longer dry-docking intervals and maintenance at sea also contribute positively to the calculation. There is plenty of room on a Ramform back deck to carry out running maintenance of sources and streamers. Spreads can be re-configured in transit between projects.

Crew facilities onboard our Ramform fleet are legend, including the basketball courts on the Titan-class. It is about more than aiming at hoops, however. Throughout the fleet, the focus is on increased productivity. The PGS approach has been to maximize the weather window and we have been succeeding at this for some time, due to the deep tow advantages of our GeoStreamer technology which is deployed on all PGS vessels. Our Ramform Titan-class exploits the broadest weather range ever, without compromising safety. In addition to deep tow, the extra smooth ride means better concentration and more focus in the instrument room, and on the bridge. Stable operations make it easier to sleep and to land helicopters. 

Downward trend in fleet-wide downtime since the arrival of the Titan-classDownward trend in fleet-wide downtime since the arrival of the Titan-class

Some benefits are less tangible – like the improved communication between maritime and seismic crew, and between offshore and onshore management. The PGS One Culture initiative ensures both crews work as one team. It also promotes a coherent risk-based vessel management approach from sales to seismic acquisition. We attribute a stable improvement in safety performance largely due to this initiative.

The Next Round

After six years construction and four completed vessels, the company is happy with its hand and has no plans to build more vessels in the foreseeable future. We are holding all four aces. This is complemented by two ultra-high-end S-class Ramforms and chartered modern, mid-market capacity. Coupled with several high-quality vessels in reserve, this means PGS is ready for the next round and cushioned to cope with whatever the market might deal out over the coming years.

Video - Ramform Hyperion - Titan Class Vessel
Ramform Hyperion - Titan Class Vessel

 Ramform TethysThe Ramform Titan-class sisters are the most powerful, efficient and flexible seismic vessels in the world.