By Andrew Hobbs

THE CHEVRON-operated Gorgon project is more than 83 per cent complete and on track for a start-up in mid-2015, according to the latest project updates available from the company.

When completed, the $55 billion project will comprise three trains, a 15.6 million tonnes per annum LNG facility and a domestic gas plant with capacity to provide 300 terajoules of natural gas per day to Western Australia.

Speaking in an earnings call held in August, Chevron vice chairman and executive vice president for upstream George Kirkland said the next major milestone for the Gorgon project was the completion of LNG Tank 1, targeted for the end of the third quarter.

The step came after the last Train 1 module, weighing 6,300 tonnes, was installed on Barrow Island in June.

“Delivery of Train 2 modules has begun and five are now on site,” he said.

The first carbon dioxide compressor module is also now in place at the Barrow Island project site – one of three which the company hopes will inject between 3.4 million and 4 million tonnes of reservoir carbon dioxide each year.

Chevron said its Barrow Island site has changed “dramatically” over the past year with the arrival of these and other large pieces of equipment, with activities on the mechanical, electrical and instrumentation (ME&I) scope ramping up.

The company’s general manager of its Greater Gorgon Area Colin Beckett said the project’s ME&I contractor, the joint venture between CB&I and Kentz (CKJV) would now focus on connecting components of the LNG plant to these modules and other process plant equipment.

Pre-assembly activities are continuing at the Australian Marine Complex (AMC) in Henderson, with the remaining 23 components required for Trains 2 and 3 scheduled for completion later this year, he said.

Fabrication of subsea spools is also well advanced at the AMC, with more than 16 of the project’s 63 spools installed offshore Barrow Island.

Gorgon upstream construction manager Ash Geneve said that for its size, the Gorgon trunkline tie-in spool was one of the largest diverless connection systems ever installed.

Spool fabrication activities are expected to be complete later this year, which Chevron said would mark the end of work for the upstream scope of the project completed at the AMC.

Project manager of the Gorgon LNG plant Ian Binnie said the AMC had provided a critical laydown area for the project.

“It has allowed a lot of work to be undertaken before the equipment arrives on Barrow Island, saving times on site and creating opportunities for people who may not want to work a fly-in, fly-out roster,” he said.

“It has been a truly collaborative effort at the AMC with various companies, including Mammoet, Hertel Modern and Civmec engaged by CKJV to execute this scope of work.”

Hydrotesting has been completed on all 660 kilometres of offshore pipelines, installed earlier this year by the Allseas Solitaire, with preparations to start pre-commissioning activities underway.

Chevron Australia’s Gorgon Upstream Manager Kevin Shannon said the scarp pipeline installation was one of the most challenging aspects of the project’s offshore pipelay scope.

“The scarp section spans some 200 metres from the top of the continental shelf down to the seabed in a water depth of around 730 metres,” Mr Shannon said.

“Three pipelines were successfully laid into a pre-installed trench, just eight metres wide, before being laid down the scarp – making the installation comparable to threading a needle.”

Work to install more than 36 kilometres of in-field umbilicals on the seafloor at the Gorgon and Jansz-Io fields was also continuing, following the installation of the two main umbilical lines from the fields to the west coast of Barrow Island last year.

Three in-field umbilical sections have already been installed, with the remaining two to be put in place in the coming months.

Construction of the Gorgon project’s 2.1 kilometre jetty, with two loading platforms, is nearing completion, while the domestic gas processing module had arrived and commissioning activity in the general utilities area was well underway.

Mr Kirkland said well flow back and cleanup operations on the eight Gorgon wells was ongoing, with drilling completed on the tenth and final Jansz-Io development well.

On completion of that well, ultra deepwater drill rig the Atwood Osprey rig moved to the Wheatstone project to commence a drilling campaign forecast to take two years to complete.

The rig has since spudded the first of nine natural gas development wells for the Wheatstone project, set to underpin 80% of the Wheatstone project’s production capacity.

The Allseas Solitaire also moved from Gorgon to Wheatstone in early March, beginning the installation of a 225 kilometre, 44 inch trunkline to connect the Wheatstone Platform to onshore facilities.

That shore pull was completed safely, Mr Kirkland said, with delivery of the first slug catcher components from fabrication yards having commenced.

“The Wheatstone platform and topsides are now more than 63% complete and we anticipate the sail away of the platform Steel Gravity Structure in August,” he said.

“Wheatstone remains on track for a late 2016 start up.”

Fabrication of the Wheatstone Platform Living Quarters was completed in June, with the Wheatstone project Materials Off loading Facility (MOF) completed the month prior.

Work on the Wheatstone project is now 40% complete, with dredging, fill and piling work progressing on schedule, Mr Kirkland said.

Wheatstone project general manager Eric Dunning put the project’s dredging program at about 70% complete in his August update.

About 3,800 workers were currently on site at the Ashburton North construction village, which was completed in April, he said. That number is expected to peak in 2015.

The $29 billion Wheatstone project will incorporate an initial capacity of 2.9 million tonnes of LNG per annum and a domestic gas plant able to provide 200 terajoules of gas per day.

The project developments come as US independent oil company Apache Corporation f lags plans to sell its 13% stake in the Wheatstone project as well as other potentially assets in Western Australia, as it seeks to refocus on its US assets.

Apache works in the project with Kuwait’s Kufpec, with the companies co-owning the Julimar and Brunello fields offshore WA, which will supply some the 20% of Wheatstone LNG not supplied by Chevron-owned assets at the Wheatstone and Iago fields.

Speaking in the August Earnings Call, Mr Kirkland said Chevron did not seek to expand its holding of the Wheatstone project.

“We have got all the interest we really want,” he said.

“It is the high end of our interest that we would normally have in any operation. I typically like to be, when I operate, in this 40% to 60% range, so our working interest is at the high end of that, and we are quite comfortable.”

“We don’t see any reason to have any more working interest in Wheatstone or other assets there.”

Chevron holds a 64.14% stake in Wheatstone, with Kufpec holding 13.4%, Apache 13%, Kyushu Electric Power Company (1.46% and PE Wheatstone Pty Ltd, part owned by TEPCO, holding 8%.

In Gorgon, Chevron holds a 47.3% stake, with ExxonMobil and Shell holding 25% each, Osaka Gas with 1.25%, Tokyo Gas 1% and Chubu Electric Power 0.417%.