Delay means Peninsula loses out on welding work

The Jones Act concerns delaying Escopeta’s efforts to bring a jack-up drilling rig to the Cook Inlet mean local welders are losing out on business.

Vlad Kadic, Escopeta’s project manager, said the company had selected Kenai Peninsula welders to prepare the Spartan 151 jack-up rig for drilling, but that work will now be done in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The rig needs specialized welding for high-pressure piping. Kadic said modifications are being done to comply with Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulations that handle drilling in the Cook Inlet.

He would not specify the man hours or cost of work that the Peninsula is losing, but said the rig will spend about three weeks in Vancouver having the work performed.

The shifted location is the result of the delay, he said.

Kadic said the heavy-lift vessel that was meant to carry the rig to the Cook Inlet has other work lined up and can no longer wait for the OK to come to the Cook Inlet. As a result, the rig is being unloaded from the vessel in Vancouver, and the required modifications will be performed by welders there.

The company normally dry tows large rigs, which is what the heavy-lift vessel was doing, because it is safer and faster, Kadic said. But the change in plans means it will be wet towed by a tug, which the company wants to minimize.

“Once we hook up to the tug, we want to pull the rig straight to the well location,” Kadic said.
Kadic said the change of plans wouldn’t delay the drilling season entirely. He expects the rig to be in place no later than mid-July.

“We can still complete the well,” Kadic said.

The Chinese vessel carrying the rig turned around while headed to Cook Inlet last week because of concerns over the Jones Act. The act requires that American vessels conduct intra-America shipments. The rig was being moved from the Gulf of Mexico to Cook Inlet, which is considered a shipment between U.S. ports.

Kadic said it was about 600 miles, or two days sailing, away when it turned around to wait in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

Escopeta likely will not receive a waiver for the Jones Act, but is hoping for an agreement from the federal government not to fine the company for bringing the rig in on a foreign-flagged vessel, Kadic said.

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