Meet the North Sea Oil Rig Operating Without an Onboard Crew
Norwegian energy giant Equinor has launched the world’s first completely unmanned oil platform in the North Sea. The Oseberg Vestflanken H platform has been operating since 2018 and has no living quarters or toilets onboard for crews. Instead, crews manage the rig through a combination of automatic systems and remote controls.
Equinor built the Oseberg H with efficiency in mind. Officials from the company were able to finish the $606 million platform under budget and faster than expected. The company cites the lack of living facilities on the platform as one of the most critical factors to the platform’s rapid construction. Since the company built the platform without the need to accommodate humans, it is significantly smaller than its manned counterparts.
“Oseberg H is the first platform of its kind on the Norwegian Continental Shelf with no facilities, not even a toilet,” said Equinor’s Anders Opedal. “The topside weighs only a good 1,000 tonnes, another example of simplification in practice. This platform only has the bare essentials.”
The platform sits about 5 miles northwest of the Oseberg field center, where crew remotely operate it. It has a predicted volume capacity of 110 million barrels of equivalent oil. Because this discovery has a smaller output, the company is hoping that the lack of a crew on the ship will severely cut costs and help make production more profitable.
Is the Platform Safe?
Oseberg H is a revolutionary new design, but it does not come without concerns. The company boasts that the unmanned qualities of the platform make it a safe, revolutionary platform. However, some environmental safety advocates have expressed concern that the unmanned nature of the platform may increase the time it takes to respond to an onboard incident. Equinor spokesperson Eskil Eriksen says the control room for the platform monitors all its systems closely and can react quickly to any incidents because of their location.
What Does Osesberg H Mean for the Future of Drilling?
Equinor claims that the company does not plan to replace its manned platforms with automated ones. Instead, it hopes to use the technology to drill in discoveries that were previously thought to be too small to pursue. However, since the platform is the first of its kind, only time will tell what implications automated technology has for the future of offshore drilling. One thing is certain: if the Oseberg H generates increased revenue, offshore workers should expect to see more computers become their coworkers.