THE head of EnQuest's North Sea operations paid his first visit to Sullom Voe Terminal this week and said he was impressed with the enthusiasm of the workforce to shape a major overhaul of the site to improve cost efficiency.
The managing director of North Sea EnQuest Bob Davenport stressed that continuing SVT's "excellent" safety record was as important as making necessary improvements to operations.
But he would not be drawn into speculation about job cuts, saying that a master plan for restructuring SVT was being drawn up in consultation with staff on the ground, who were essential in pinpointing where efficiencies could be made.
SVT general manager Derek Liversidge said that while half the stabilisation train could be scrapped, no reduction in tank capacity was envisaged.
He foresaw an 18-month tuning of SVT that would keep the remaining infrastructure good till the late 2020s.
Such a structural pruning, with much material being recycled, would make the terminal cheaper to run and a safer place to operate.
Davenport, who took over North Sea operations in December, said that when oil producers saw real changes in operational efficiency, there would be opportunity to make new customers and regain some old ones. But there would be no return to the million-barrel-a-day hayday of SVT, and most new oil was likely to come from West of Shetland developments.
But change was essential to ensure longevity and keep jobs, money and taxes rolling.
Davenport said: "Every pound per barrel we can reduce from the cost increases the chance of the people offshore drilling more wells.
"We have in our hands and in our power an opportunity to make a big difference. If we can make improvements and demonstrate efficiency gains ....it will allow the folks who make investment decisions, some times years before, to form an impression of us. It's a big change but a lot of it is within our own hands.
"The message is out that SVT is open for business. We won't take anything for granted, but we will be on the front foot."
Davenport, an Alabama native with 34 years in the "upstream" industry, said he detected a strong willingness in SVT staff to rise to the new challenge. He said that involving staff in coming up with "a well defined plan" for improving efficiency was a key to successful change.
Liversidge said that production was currently running about 150,000 barrels-per-day, but this could potentially increase with Clair Ridge production increasing.
He said that there are presently over 200 EnQuest core staff on site, but total numbers would fluctuate as contractors came and went from projects.
Any changes to core staffing levels would only emerge when the ongoing identification of what to improve and how was completed and the changes to operations implemented.
Equally important as making sure the terminal was "fit for purpose" was making sure that everyone got home at the end of the day "safe and sound", he added.
There are still prospects for young people to come to SVT, Liversidge said, with apprenticeships via the oil training organisation OPITO. It was very important not to create a skills gap with the retirement of key members of the workforce, who were very keen to help young apprentices.
He had been equally impressed by his own reception from the workforce when he started as manager when EnQuest took over from BP last year.
While the terminal was built to have a throughput capacity of 1.4 million barrels daily, it was clear all that storage was no longer needed. But it was possible some of the tank capacity can be repurposed for other uses.