BRAZIL master

Going offshore Brazil

The emerald-green waters of the Atlantic Ocean are hiding huge oil reserves off the coast of Brazil. Transporting this oil to refineries requires pipelines laid on the seabed. Wärtsilä has won orders to supply propulsion solutions for a total of six pipelaying vessels.


The discovery of offshore reserves made by Brazilian geologists in 2007 was the biggest in the Americas for 30 years. The resulting 62% increase in Brazil’s crude oil reserves is expected to be the country’s ticket to additional wealth. In 1980, Brazil’s economy was the world’s 16th-largest, it now ranks sixth.

Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil and gas giant currently produces approximately 2.7 million barrels of oil each day. By 2020, output is expected to have increased to 6.4 million barrels a day, an amount equivalent to current daily production in Angola, Nigeria and Venezuela combined. Accessing ‘black gold’ does, however, require vast investments in oil drilling facilities, floating production and platform installations, pumping equipment, pipelines, vessels, installation and support services.

To create jobs, Brazil’s government is attempting to direct investments to Brazilian manufacturers and service providers, but local sources of supply are not yet able to fully match demand and competing with the prices offered by foreign shipyards is hard - price differences of some 20% are hard to beat.


Competition for vessel construction contracts in Brazil’s offshore sector is extremely tough. In February 2011, when Petrobras launched the tendering process for six pipelaying vessels to build pipelines from oil drilling rigs to refineries on the mainland, offers for several different vessel designs were received from 12 companies and involved eight shipyards - a multiplicity of alternatives.

The three winners of the tender process were the Malaysian company SapuraCrest Petroleum Bhd (now SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd), London-based Subsea7, experts in the design, fabrication, installation and commissioning of seabed-to-surface projects, and Technip and Odebrecht Oleo & Gas (OOG), an energy-industry joint venture based in France.

SapuraKencana has commissioned the design, engineering and construction of two 550t pipelaying vessels (tension capacity 550 tonnes) and one 300t pipelaying vessel (tension capacity 300 tonnes) with IHC Merwede B.V., a Dutch company. Based in The Netherlands, IHC Merwede B.V is a global operator providing custom-built vessels and related supplies for the offshore sector.

The 146-metre 550t vessels are being constructed at IHC Merwede’s yard in Krimpen aan den Ijssel in The Netherlands. The 134-metre 300t vessel will be built by OSX Construção Naval S.A. Brazil. For each of the 550t vessels, Wärtsilä will be supplying six 8-cylinder in-line Wärtsilä 32 engines, three modular thrusters, two retractable thrusters and two tunnel thrusters. For the 300t vessel, Wärtsilä will be supplying two 8-cylinder and two 7-cylinder in-line Wärtsilä 32 engines, three compact thrusters for primary propulsion, one retractable thruster and two tunnel thrusters.

Wärtsilä 32 engines employ the latest developments in fuel-combustion technology and are well known for the high levels of efficiency they achieve, their uncomplicated maintenance routines and long maintenance intervals. They also are fully compliant with the IMO Tier II emissions regulations (Annex VI of the MARPOL 73/78 convention).



For the 550t vessel being designed and constructed by IHC Merwede for Subsea7, Wärtsilä is to supply a propulsion technology package similar to the one for SapuraKencara, including six 8-cylinder in-line Wärtsilä 32 engines, three modular thrusters, two retractable thrusters and two tunnel thrusters.

Designed by Wärtsilä, the two identical VS 4146 PLV pipelaying vessels for the Technip/OOG joint venture will be built at the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) shipyard in South Korea. The contract represents a major breakthrough for Wärtsilä Ship Design in Brazil.

Designed to achieve optimal levels of fuel consumption, the 146-metre vessels will have a tension capacity of 550 tonnes and enable efficient and flexible pipelaying operations. For each vessel, Wärtsilä will be supplying three modular thrusters, two retractable thrusters and two tunnel thrusters. Both vessels will be operating on a long-term charter for Petrobras in Brazilian waters. Their primary function will be installing the flexible flow lines and risers that connect floating production units to sub-sea wells located at depths of as much as 2500 metres.



“It was a great honour for Wärtsilä to be chosen as the propulsion technology supplier for all six of these vessel projects,” says Jeroen van Keep, Business Sales Manager, Offshore, Wärtsilä Netherlands. “We believe that Wärtsilä was selected because of our close cooperation with shipyards, because our products are reliable, and because we offer life-long maintenance and a local presence. In the conditions where vessels like this operate, having dependable technology is extremely important.”

During pipelaying operations, engine loads have to be kept high at all times to ensure the pipe is kept in the correct position. “Any loss of power means loss of the pipe,” says van Keep. “Wärtsilä generating sets are also widely used on diving support vessels, where divers’ lives depend on an uninterrupted power supply being available to keep diving chambers pressurised.”


“Levels of equipment reliability also have a great effect on the profitability of customer projects,”  says Dick Heidelberg, Account Manager, Wärtsilä Ship Power. “Operators are paid on a daily basis and time is money. If a thruster fails, the vessel affected usually has to sail to a dry dock for repairs. The number of dry docks in Brazil is limited, and the nearest alternatives are located in Africa.”

At Wärtsilä’s suggestion, all the 550t pipelaying vessels which will be working for Petrobras are being equipped with Wärtsilä Underwater Mountable Thrusters. “As this design allows a thruster to be changed at sea, this guarantees unbroken vessel availability,” says Heidelberg. “It’s a good example of how Wärtsilä takes responsibility for each customer’s ability to perform. We manufacture the tools, then help our customers operate and maintain them, ensuring they will be available when required.”


Wärtsilä technology has recently been installed on the P63 FPSO (floating production, storage and offloading unit) (2010) and a number of offshore supply vessels (2011). “As the demand for drillships, pipelaying vessels, offshore supply vessels and FPSOs in Brazil’s offshore sector is steadily growing, the future outlook for Wärtsilä is very positive,” says van Keep. “The total packages we deliver include ship design, propulsion solutions - both main engines and thrusters, onboard power generation and automation solutions. We also offer Operations and Maintenance (O&M) services”

Pipe laying vessels order

Offshore solutions

Offshore vessels design

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