Operational support functions are an important consideration in the development of offshore reserves and must be administered in such a manner that prevailing environmental regulations, personnel safety, and the local environment are not compromised. At the same time, the economic burdens imposed by their administration must be compatible with production forecasts.

This paper will discuss a unique support approach that was codeveloped by BHP Petroleum Limited (BHP) and the engineering staff of an international oilfield servicing/ manufacturing company to support the operational objectives for the Hamilton, Hamilton North, Douglas, and Lennox fields in the Liverpool Bay Development. A key component of the concept is a manned, self-elevating Operations Support Vessel (OSV) that can provide cost-efficient infield service to the offshore platforms in the developed locations while maintaining all safety and environmental requirements.

The OSV concept has enabled the operator to develop fields in shallow water with unmanned, minimum-facility, standardized platforms that are consistent with the industry "Cost Reduction in the New Era" (CRINE) initiative. When multiple fields are within reasonable proximity, the economic advantage gained with this vessel is enhanced even further.

The success of this approach brings a cost effective solution to the development of offshore reserves in shallow waters that cannot support the economic burdens of traditional North Sea manned platform designs. This approach to field development for the UKCS has resulted in a life-cycle operating contract between BHP and the servicing company. This interaction has not only enhanced current operational technology within the required parameters but also illustrates a practical example of an industry "win-win" relationship.

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