Taking the mud out of offshore drilling

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Increased focus on the sea floor
Since the 1990’s, governments and action groups have been increasingly aware of the environmental effects of offshore oil drilling. Apart from the potential for leaks and spills, the actual drilling process can have substantial effects on the area surrounding the drilling site.

As drills are driven down into the seabed, material is pushed up out of the well. In the past, this slurry waste was dumped on the seabed around the site. The mixture of mud, sands and other sediments clouds the water, potentially choking life in the immediate area. It then settles onto the sea floor where it can cover floor bound sea life and creatures too slow moving to move out of the way.

Government action led to innovation
Governmental awareness and action led to national guidelines for waste control. They stipulate that companies with drilling operations on the sea floor now must clean up after themselves and leave the sea floor in the condition they found it. Some areas were also designated off limits in order to protect the particularly sensitive or important environments.

Such legislation and requirements to control waste prompted leading drilling support company, AGR, to design and develop a sea bottom vacuum cleaner that would remove mud and waste from the drilling point. In the mid 1990’s they designed a suction and pump system that would vacuum the waste away from the seafloor and up to the drilling platform where it could be processed.

Once they had developed their ground-breaking Riserless Mud Recovery system, or RMR, they needed a launch and recovery system that could safely and reliably lower the system to the boring hole on the sea floor.

Designing the right handling system
Together with MacArtney acting as offshore launch and recovery system experts, they developed an integrated RMR system that could be launched from a drilling platform down to the seafloor when needed. MacArtney designed a self-contained launch and recovery system that included the winch, cable and A-frame. It was designed specifically for the task and integrates the RMR into the self-contained design. The launch and recovery system provides safe and effective handling of the suction module, the suction hose and the pump module down to and up from the drilling site on the seabed. The entire system is built into one unit that can be moved from one location to another as needed.

MacArtney Launch and recovery system including winch, cable and A-frame

Successfully protecting the sea floor
The combination of inspired design and robust final system has given drilling operators an effective method of complying with government anti dumping regulations. The cleaner drilling process has also opened up some areas for drilling that were otherwise off limits due to environmental restrictions.

35 Riserless Mud Recovery systems with MacArtney’s offshore launch and recovery system have been delivered since the system was launched onto the market almost 15 years ago. Deployed from one drilling operation to another across the world, they have been helping to preserve seabed life and conditions in countless locations in the seas and oceans of our planet.