Traditionally, oil fields have been produced by building a
platform on the site after appraisal drilling operations had been
However, advancements in technology has meant that smaller oil fields,
where it would not have been economically viable to build a platform,
are now able to be developed by the use of a cheaper option, a
Floating Production Storage & Offloading vessel, or FPSO for short.
The Zafiro Producer, above, is just this type of vessel.
Originally a 270,000 ton oil tanker called the M.T. Swift, built in
1973, it was converted to an FPSO and arrived in it's present location
offshore Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea in 1996. It was originally
intended for around a 5 year life in the Zafiro field. But more oil
discoveries in the field have meant the estimated field life is around
15 years. A life enhancement program was undertaken to improve the
FPSO still further and as can be seen in the picture in the oil rig
photo gallery, there is now another tanker sited nose-nose with the
Zafiro Producer, the Harrier.
The Zafiro Producer is now the production part of this partnership and
pumps the oil into the hull of the Harrier. The Harrier was replaced
by the Magnolia storage unit, another oil tanker on 26th August 2000.
The Zafiro Producer is connected to subsea oil wells and pumps the oil
out of the ground directly to the hull of the Magnolia.
When the hull of the Magnolia is full, it pumps the oil through a hose
into another tanker via a Single Point Mooring buoy located
approximately 1 mile away. You can see the hose in the picture above
floating on the sea surface. FPSOs are a very versatile offshore
installation. At the end of a life for an oil field, these vessels are
designed to enable them to move to another location and start work on
pumping another oilfield dry over a period of years.