Contractors and rig owners can take some comfort from the expected uptick in Malaysia’s upstream industry after a period of stagnation in the second half of 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic and associated crude price crash.

A total of eight greenfield and 30 brownfield field development projects are expected to be sanctioned over the next 36 months, according to the Petronas Activity Outlook 2021-2023.

Petronas said fields to be developed include marginal fields, late life assets, fields with high contaminants, high complexity reservoirs and remote fields presenting opportunities for providing what the operator described as innovative, disruptive and cost-effective solutions.

Contractors can expect tenders for a central processing platform in excess of 7500 tonnes, five wellhead platforms weighing between 1000 and 7500 tonnes and one ‘light’ wellhead platform topping the scales at less than 1000 tonnes.

Slimmer pickings are envisaged in 2022 when just one to three ‘medium’ wellhead platforms of between 1000 and 7500 tonnes are likely to be required for Malaysian projects.

The following year should be brighter with one central processing platform, two or three ‘medium’ wellhead platforms and one or two ‘light’ wellhead platforms needed.

Petronas signalled that no floaters will be tendered in the current year, but outlined plans for an Aframax floating storage and offloading vessel in 2022.

Projects pointing to an additional mobile offshore production unit in 2022 and a floating production, storage and offloading vessel in 2023 are still being matured, according to Petronas.

Greenfield developments

Ongoing greenfield developments that offer installation work to contractors include Kasawari, Pegaga, Pemanis and East Cendor Phase 1.

Installation contracts will also be up for grabs for the Integrated Bekok Oil, Ledang and Gumusut Kakap phase three brownfield projects.

This year's projects will require 12 heavy lift installations using barges, with as many as 20 such installations expected in 2021 and 2022 combined. These forecasts exclude the use of heavy lift barges for facilities decommissioning.

Pipelaying operations are expected to be 64 days in 2021, 142 days next year and as many as 312 days in 2023.

As many as three subsea umbilicals, risers and flowlines projects are expected annually in 2022 and 2023, the outlook forecasts.

Subsea traction

“Subsea tie-backs are gaining traction as they present economic viability for the monetisation of previously untapped and less economically viable discoveries, that is deep-water and marginal fields,” said Petronas.

“Demand for SURF in 2023 could be higher as more deep-water projects are being matured.”

Post-2023, a steady outlook is also expected for the fabrication of fixed structures and subsea facilities, although only a modest outlook is expected for heavier structures as cost-competitiveness drives operators to opt for wellhead platform tie-ins to existing nearby facilities.

A modest outlook is also expected for floaters, as technology advancements present favourable options for the monetisation of remote fields, noted Petronas.

As of last November, two greenfield and two brownfield projects were in the front-end engineering and design stage while conceptual facilities design was under way for a total of 21 projects, including infill drilling projects.

Shell brace

Other projects that are expected to progress this year in Malaysia include Shell’s Rosmari-Marjoram, for which offshore and onshore engineering, procurement and construction contracts will be up for grabs, and the Anglo-Dutch supermajor’s Timi field development.

Also set to move forward in 2021 are PTTEP’s Lang Lebah field development, for which FEED contracts will likely be awarded for both the onshore and offshore workscopes.

Contractors’ appetites could be whetted too by Petronas’ Limbayong project and phase four of the Hess-operated North Malay Basin development.

In 2020, there were as many as 23 rigs operating in Malaysian waters with peak utilisation in March, but the rig count declined from May onwards to a low of just 14 units in the second half of the year.

The Petronas outlook envisages demand for 10 jack-ups, four tender assist drilling rigs, three semi-submersibles or drillships and five hydraulic workover units.

The following year is expected to require 18 rigs with Petronas forecasting 19 drilling and workover units needed in 2023.

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