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Safety tightened at Total site

Preparation work for the exporting pipeline is ongoing in Firth Voe.

SAFETY has been tightened at the £500 million Total gas plant construction site after a worker complained to the local media about working practices.

The gas plant next to the Sullom Voe oil terminal is part of a £2.5 billion investment to unlock vast gas reserves to the west of Shetland.

Total immediately launched an investigation after former contractor Brian Wishart produced photos showing men working beneath huge pipes weighing many tonnes as they were suspended in the air.

On Tuesday, the project’s safety, health and environment manager Ian Burrows said that changes had been introduced since the incident.

“We carried out a full investigation and we discovered areas where we could make improvements in communications – putting into place systems whereby employees can report their concerns so we can follow them up,” he said.

Brian Wishart's photo of unsafe working practices on the Total site.

“We are more than willing to do that. Improvement in safety performance is vitally important to us in these projects. We really don’t want anybody to get hurt here or have a safety concern on the project.

“They can report it to me or the site manager who is available 24 hours a day. We have also put in place a phone number where people can make anonymous responses at any time and we guarantee that we will follow up any complaint that anybody has.” 

Meanwhile construction work continues to be within budget and on target to start production in June 2014, according to Total. 

The gas plant will play a key role in securing the UK’s energy future by unlocking 17 per cent of the country’s gas reserves that lie under the north Atlantic and opening up further developments in the region.

Total said that 75 per cent of the 143 kilometre long pipeline linking the gas plant with the Laggan and Tormore fields has been completed.

Tanks being constructed on the Total site - Photos: Shetland News

Preparation work to start laying the 230 kilometre long pipeline from the gas plant to link into the Frigg network is well underway.

Next month the world’s largest pipe laying vessel Solitaire is expected to return to Shetland to start laying pipework along the narrow Firth Voe.

While the groundwork on the construction site nears completion, Total is preparing for the first pre-assembled units for the gas plant itself to arrive in June.

Company spokesman Brian O’Neill said: “There are about 17 percent of the UK’s gas reserves out there to the west of Shetland. Up to this point it has not been possible to pipe the gas to the mainland, as there has been not infrastructure in place to do that.

“What we are doing as part of this project is creating that infrastructure; and we will then be able to bring that gas into Shetland and then on to the UK mainland.”

It is hoped that once the infrastructure is in place other gas and oil fields, such as Total’s own Edradour discovery will also come on stream.

The massive investment by the French company will extend the oil and gas industry’s presence in Shetland for another 30 years at least.

The gas plant will provide local jobs, create spin offs for local engineering and construction companies, while generating additional cash for the local authority.
Shetland Islands Council has estimated the development will pump £200 million into the local economy over the lifespan of the development.

At the peak of the construction period which starts this summer, up to 800 workers will be employed and housed in a specially erected accommodation block. Once the gas plant has been opened it is estimated that it will employ 70 people.