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Sullom Voe to get new lease of life

| Written by Pete Bevington

A new dawn for Sullom Voe oil terminal. Photo BP A new dawn for Sullom Voe oil terminal. Photo BP THE WORKFORCE at BP’s Sullom Voe oil terminal in Shetland is to double for the best part of a decade as part of a massive investment to make it fit for the next 30 years.

The terminal, which currently employs 220 staff and around 300 contractors, is expected to have 1,000 people working there over the next eight years or more.

BP is currently exploring options for housing 400 workers, including a new work camp close to the terminal.

Two massive projects are set to extend the life of the terminal to 2040 and beyond – the £3 billion Schiehallion development and the £4.5 billion Clair Ridge project.

Work also begins this summer on exploring how to extract even more oil from the enormous Clair oil field, as part of a project named Greater Clair that would give the terminal an even longer life.

Sullom Voe is also working with its neighbours Total with plans to take 40,000 barrels per day of liquid condensate from the gas the French company will be piping in from Laggan-Tormore west of the isles.

Sullom Voe is already more than 10 years past the period it was designed to last, so a major £100 million intervention operation will employ 200 contractors to completely refurbish the plant.

BP are also planning to build a £500 million gas plant to “sweeten” gas coming from both east and west of Shetland, taking out the hydrogen sulphide to make it ready for export via the Magnus field.

The Magnus platform itself, 100 miles north east of Shetland, is due for a major facelift with an accommodation barge housing 200 workers due to be stationed offshore next February.

BP is having a tough time finding engineers to work in Shetland and has launched a major recruiting drive, inviting the trade press to the isles this week to tour the plant and hear about the opportunities living and working in Shetland offers.

Old pipework is already being demolished as part of the refurbishment. Photo BP Old pipework is already being demolished as part of the refurbishment. Photo BP Peter Miller, BP’s vice president of North Sea mid stream who is responsible for the terminal and the oil fields, said the company was giving Sullom Voe “a whole new lease of life”.

“The terminal itself is ageing, but it’s changing quite dramatically. There will be a very different landscape here in five years to what it was like just two years ago,” he said.

“There is a lot of renewal going on, ripping out a load of plant and building new plant, a lot of maintenance, scaffolding, repainting, inspecting.

“I can say over the next five, six, seven, eight years there will be a huge number of people working here.”

Terminal manager Arthur Spence said they needed experienced oil and gas people to come to Shetland to do the work, especially trained engineers.

“Shetland has some, but not enough with the skills and experience that we need,” he said.

“We have put job adverts in the national and local press, we have been headhunting and gone through job agencies but we are still not getting the people we need.”

As well as touring the isles, the trade press met up with Shetland Islands Council’s development committee chairman Alastair Cooper and Audrey Edwards from the council’s education department, and were treated to a performance by a primary school choir from Bell’s Brae.

Spence was brought up in the isles and worked at Sullom for 15 years before travelling overseas with the company, returning two years ago to run the terminal.

He said the company recognised that they had to attract families as well as skilled personnel and they wanted to show off what Shetland had to offer. "For me Shetland is the main selling point," he said.

Around 200 people will start working on the intervention project next month, with accommodation provided by the Bibby Challenge barge in Scalloway.

A further 400 could be needed to build the gas plant, which BP hope to complete in 2017. This project is still under discussion with the terminal’s partners.

BP is considering all options for accommodation here, including a new work camp, another accommodation barge or seeing if use can be made of Total’s accommodation block at Sella Ness.

Spence said that there were other projects, including decommissioning and the Total condensate line, that would need large numbers of people for most of the decade.

“These projects are not going to just die at the end of 2017, there will always be some project for a wee while. Eight years? I personally think it might be longer.

“It is very positive how the west of Shetland is developing, and we also need to maintain a plant that is safe and reliable for our existing owners and east of Shetland business. We have got to keep it here for the long term.

“These are really exciting times and its great that everything is now starting to materialise. Shetland is about to go through a few exciting years and the population is going to go up.”

BP believe there could be much more oil and gas to be found offshore around Shetland which is becoming more accessible due to technological advances.

Oil & Gas UK say that the industry has plans to invest almost £100 billion in the North Sea area, including west of Shetland.