UK supermajor BP has taken a major step forward in its plans to secure additional oil and gas production at the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG) deep-water offshore development in Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea waters before the end of 2023.

The increase in ACG oil and gas production — on schedule despite earlier Covid-related challenges — is expected to help ease Europe’s energy supply crisis, as European Union member nations strive to seek alternative hydrocarbon supplies to replace Russian oil and gas imports.

BP said a central jacket for the planned Azeri Central East drilling and production platform is now ready for load-out to sail away to its permanent location in the ACG contract area.

The 153-metre high structure was assembled at the Heydar Aliyev Deepwater Jackets Factory near the Azerbaijan capital Baku and is set to be installed in water depths of about 137 metres.

The transportation, launch, positioning and pile installation activities of the jacket are planned to take about 40 days to complete, BP said.

Following the installation of the jacket, the topsides currently under construction at another Azeri-run fabrication yard in Bibi-Heybat will be transported for placing on the jacket, with the operation expected to take place in the second quarter of next year.

Drilling of the first well is planned to start immediately after that, BP said.

The supermajor said about 80% of the Azeri Central East project’s workscope has been already completed, and $2.9 billion committed out of the $6 billion investment earmarked for the development.

Infield pipelines to transfer oil and gas from the new platform to the existing ACG phase two oil and gas export pipelines for transportation to Azerbaijan’s onshore Sangachal terminal have already been completed.

The new 48-slot production and living quarters platform, meanwhile, will target output of up to 100,000 barrels per day of oil and is expected to produce up to 300 million barrels over the lifetime of the platform, which is expected to run at least until the expiry of the ACG production sharing agreement in 2049.

Low carbon operation

BP said the platform has been designed as a low-carbon operation in response to the industry’s increasing environmental demands.

The new facility will be the first platform in the ACG contract area to be controlled remotely from an onshore control room at the Sangachal terminal that has already been built and is undergoing tests, BP said.

Most of the platform’s systems and tasks will be automated to help reduce work-hours and the number of personnel on board, and to help focus on more critical work.

The facility will also be connected to the existing East Azeri platform to draw backup power when required.

In addition, thermal imaging cameras installed throughout the platform are set to detect greenhouse gas emissions and larger leaks.

“All this means less travel, fewer shutdowns and outages, and hence lower flaring and emissions,” BP said.

BP holds an operating stake of over 30% in the ACG project, where its partners include Azeri state oil and gas producer Socar, Hungary’s MOL, Japan’s Inpex and Itochu, Norway’s Equinor, US supermajor ExxonMobil, Turkey’s TPAO and India’s ONGC Videsh.