Ensign: Bureaucratic obstacles complicate


Ensign: Bureaucratic obstacles complicate
Ensign: Bureaucratic obstacles complicate
moving of highly automated rigs into Australia
By John Bushell,
Ensign International Energy Services
IN 2007, IN order to meet client
demands for high-specification, fastmoving rigs with improved safety and
minimal environmental impact, Ensign
Energy Services decided to deploy two
Automated Drilling Rigs (ADR) from
Canada to Australia. These environmentally friendly rigs have small footprints
and offer a safer working environment
for personnel through automation. Their
trailerised design saves time when moving between locations and minimises
nonproductive time.
In order to move the rigs into Australia,
Ensign embarked on a rigorous cleaning campaign to ensure quarantine
requirements were met. Rig #48 was
destined for Barrow Island, a Class A
Environmental Reserve requiring special
quarantine measures.
Ensign and the client, Chevron, utilised the services of Toll, a sub-contract
company approved by the Western
Australian government that ensured
quarantine measures were policed
and strictly maintained. Ensign was
aware of requirements of the Australian
Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) to
import rigs to Australia. However, acting
on advice that Toll inspected to a higher
standard for Barrow Island, an AQIS
inspector was not engaged to inspect Rig
#48 equipment in Canada.
Subsequently, Ensign was advised that
due to a bureaucratic turf war, AQIS
would not accept the Toll inspection
even though Toll had forwarded detailed
reports and photographs of the cleaning process to AQIS. As a result of AQIS
not accepting Toll’s inspection, Rig #48
had to be diverted from its direct shipping route to Dampier to be offloaded
in Darwin for AQIS inspection. This
diversion cost Ensign approximately
To move its Automated Drilling Rigs from Canada into Australia, Ensign Energy Services
undertook rigorous cleaning of the trailer components.
Australian state regulations. The electrical regulations in Western Australia
(WA) are the most stringent for land rigs
that Ensign has encountered globally.
Even though Rig #48 was extensively rewired in Canada to meet WA regulations,
with WA government-approved mechanical and electrical inspectors overseeing the work, all electrical cable joints
subsequently had to be replaced when
the rig arrived on Barrow Island. This
resulted in an additional cost to Ensign
of approximately A$250,000.
Both rigs were designed to be highly
mobile units, with some units on Rig
#48 trailerised and all units on Rig #50
trailerised. On Barrow Island, mobile
equipment does not require registration,
so Rig #48 could be freely moved.
However, due to the areas in which Rig
#50 was going to operate, it required the
trailers to be registered. Here Ensign
encountered another set of bureaucratic
setbacks. The importation of vehicles
and trailers to Australia is administered
by the Federal Department of Transport
With the shipment of Rig #50, Ensign
engaged an AQIS inspector to travel
to Nisku, and the rig entered the Port
of Brisbane in Queensland with no difficulty.
Even though the rigs were working in
Canada, Ensign was aware that certain
modifications had to be made to meet
November/December 2008
Due to delays in local regulatory approvals, the doghouse trailer had to be floated
between locations at a considerable cost compared with the rental of a prime mover to
move the trailerised load.
The ADR rigs are designed to be mobile and can rig up without the use of a crane. Without required approvals in Australia, however,
the rig had to be floated between locations, using two cranes to unload the trailerised rig from heavy moving equipment.
and Regional Services (DOTARS),
now the Department of Infrastructure,
Transport, Regional Development and
Local Government. Through a transport
consultant, Ensign made an application for DOTARS approval, which was
required by state governments in order
to register each trailer. Because the
equipment was specially designed,
DOTARS regulations required special
departmental administrative approval as
there is no category covering mobile oil
drilling equipment.
Ensign was advised, however, that a
special application could be made to register low-volume usage vehicles – which
was not stated in guidelines. This turned
out to be useless in this exercise as each
vehicle comprises approximately eight
loads, and this approach is limited to the
registration of three vehicles per year
per company.
Upon arrival of the rig in Queensland in
late September, the local Department of
Transport inspected, weighed and measured the Rig #50 trailers and made recommendations to Ensign regarding the
change-out of some sections of the brake
system, as well as side and tail lights.
This was undertaken because DOTARS
approval had been delayed due to the
federal election and the change-out of
departmental personnel; therefore the
Queensland transport department was
unable to register the trailers.
In order to meet client commencement
deadlines, a decision was made to move
the rig to the first drilling location
using heavy-duty transport floats. As of
February 2008, DOTARS approval had
still not been received, and the first eight
wells were drilled with the highly mobile
rig having to be moved between wells
using heavy-duty floats and cranes for
loading. This resulted in additional time
and costs of approximately A$220,000.
November/December 2008
Recent indications are that Queensland
Transport may be prepared to issue special permits for the trailers to be moved
unregistered, provided that Ensign give
sufficient notice of the routes to be taken
and provide escort vehicles for this purpose.
Other transport contractors who have
mobilised new twin-steer oilfield rig
trucks to the Cooper Basin have encountered similar difficulties, and these specialised new vehicles are having to be
floated between drilling locations. The
cost is ultimately passed on to the end
Other examples of bureaucratic and
administrative procedural issues exist.
One case in point was the procurement
by the Metropolitan Fire Service in
South Australia of a command vehicle
that was constructed in Queensland
and lay idle for more than 12 months
while transport registration issues were
Given the cost and administrative issues
in dealing with the Australian bureau-
cracy at various levels, Ensign will deliberate long and hard about deploying any
additional highly mobile ADR-type rigs
there. Being a global drilling contractor,
Ensign considers contract opportunities
in other countries to be simpler to execute, and it is easier to deploy existing
rigs to so-called “developing countries”
in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and
South America.
Surely this is a loss to the Australian
petroleum exploration industry and
requires governments and governmental
departments to work together to ensure
the best equipment is available in this
country to continue the exploration and
development hydrocarbon resources.
John Bushell is vice president international
marketing with Ensign Energy Service’s
International Division. He has more than 20
years of experience in the contracting drilling industry and holds undergraduate and
post-graduate qualifications in technical and
commercial disciplines.
This article is based on a presentation made
at the APPEA 2008 Conference & Exhibition,
7-9 April, Perth, Australia.
Additional time and costs were incurred to move Ensigns’s Automated Drilling Rigs.