Home' Asian Aviation : AAV May 2014 Contents 28 AsianAviation | MAY 2014
The booming offshore oil and gas industry
is big business for helicopter operators,
manufacturers and leasing companies. The
established markets of the North Sea, Gulf
of Mexico, Australia and parts of South America are
continuing to reap rewards for those involved in the
industry, but a whole heap of developing markets
in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Latin
America are showing great promise.
As well as the market expanding, the trend towards
deep water exploration and an ageing fleet of offshore
helicopters means that OEMs and lessors are working
hard to meet the requirements of the sector.
There are about 2,200 helicopters operating in the
oil and gas industry worldwide, according to Airbus
Helicopters, which claims about a 25% market share.
While the North Sea, North America/Gulf of
Mexico, Brazil and Australia are all growth regions,
and upcoming regions include Russia and Africa,
Airbus Helicopters has been particularly focused on
"Asia is an area where we see great potential and
we have been focused on the growth of our fleet in
this region for some time now," says the manufacturer.
The focus has allowed Airbus to secure around 34%
of the oil and gas fleet in the region. The EC225 is
the dominant type in the heavy category, says the
manufacturer, thanks to its "unrivalled capability to
access oil reserves beyond 240nm radius of action.
This is particularly evident in countries such as
Australia, East Timor, Vietnam, China and Malaysia."
In Australia, Airbus says it leads the oil and gas
sector with a 56% market share, dominated by the
Super Puma family.
Airbus has also established a strong foothold in
China where deep water exploration is on the rise.
Some 14 AS332s and EC225s are currently operated
by CITIC Offshore Helicopter Co for China National
Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) in the South China
Sea. With CNOOC planning to drill more than 100
offshore exploration wells, future prospects look good.
"Asia has a number of growth areas, of which
Malaysia and Vietnam are top contenders, but which
also include China, India, Indonesia and Myanmar
-- each presenting unique challenges," says the
Airbus Helicopters' latest family member, the
EC175, which was certificated earlier this year, was
designed and developed based on feedback from
the oil and gas industry. "We foresee it as a product
to meet the demands of the industry for years to
come," says Airbus. The EC175 can transport 16
passengers up to 140nm radius, with some 92% of
oil platforms in Asia falling within its range capability.
This year will also see certification of the EC145
T2 light twin-engine helicopter, which will have a
capacity of 10/11 people, a shorter range and will
be available in oil and gas configuration next year.
Sikorsky also sees great promise from the Asia-
Pacific region, particularly the South China Sea
and the Indonesia/Malaysia corridor, where its
medium aircraft S-76 plays a major role in offshore
transportation. One of the fastest growing markets
worldwide is Brazil, according to Sikorsky, followed
by West African countries such as Angola, Nigeria
and Equatorial Guinea. "Longer-term, significant
upside potential resides in such emerging offshore
markets as the Russian Arctic, Barents Sea in Norway
and deep water Gulf of Mexico," says Sikorsky.
The S-76 and S-92 families are Sikorsky's
workhorses in the sector. To date, the S-76 family
has amassed more than 4.1 million flight hours on
offshore oil missions -- approximately 70% of the
fleet's total -- while the S-92 family has clocked up
600,000 flight hours -- 90% of the total.
Deliveries of the latest variant of the S-76 in
offshore configuration, the S-76D, started earlier
"We believe the S-76D provides the best customer
value in areas including safety, reliability, operating
costs and performance. Also, we believe the S-92
helicopter is the offshore operators' helicopter of
choice throughout the world," says Sikorsky, pointing
to a US$2 billion-plus order backlog for the type.
Sikorsky says it is making continual and innovative
upgrades to enhance safety and reliability while
reducing operating costs. For example, the recently
introduced Rig Approach on the S-92 provides
operators with an automated approach to offshore
rigs and platforms. It reduces cockpit workload by
60% and allows for more consistent operations
under challenging weather and operating conditions,
improving safety and potentially reducing fuel burn,
says Sikorsky. The system is available as an option
on new S-92s and can be retrofitted to S-92s
already in service.
Bell Helicopter has 635 helicopters operating in
the oil and gas industry worldwide, with the majority
in North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and
the Middle East/Africa. Customers are using light
and medium types, such as the 206L4, 407 and its
upgraded variant the 407GX, and the 429, says
Mike Suldo, Bell's key segment specialist for the
energy sector. The Bell 412 and upgraded 412EPI
are proven workhorses operating in challenging
climates, he adds.
This year will see the first flight of the short light
single Bell 505 Jet Ranger X and the new larger Bell
525 Relentless, which will be able to support larger
crews on longer missions offshore. The Relentless
will be capable of carrying 16 passengers and two
crew with a range of 500nm.
Bell sees the strongest growth opportunities for
new and replacement aircraft in Brazil, Mexico, the
US, Canada, the North Sea, the western coast of
Africa and Australia. "Since each region is unique, we
The move towards deep water exploration, an ageing eet and the growth of new
markets means that prospects are good for helicopter manufacturers, lessors and
operators involved in the oil and gas industry. Emma Kelly talks to some of the players.
The AW189 has already amassed orders of 130 from operators
including the Avincis Group, Bristow Group, Era Group, Gulf Helicopters
and Weststar Aviation Services, as well as major lessors.
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