Transition time at Sullom Voe terminal

Sullom Voe oil terminal manager Arthur Spence

SULLOM Voe oil terminal general manager Arthur Spence has clarified his ambitions to refurbish the plant to prepare for “a bright future”.

Spence said on Friday he and his team of top managers had been formulating a plan to speed up the fabric maintenance programme with an intensive “intervention campaign”.


He estimates over three to five years the terminal could spend up to £100 million and bring in a peak of 200 contractors to carry out a focused programme of cleaning, painting and replacing old pipes and plant.

Pipework at Sullom Voe needs to be painted, repaired and replaced to prepare for the future.Pic. BP plc

Word slipped out about the plans when the company started investigating accommodation in the isles for up to 200 workers.

However Spence said that suggestions that £300 million was being invested in the terminal were exaggerated.

He hopes to have a proposal to present to the terminal’s 28 partners by March next year, but it will be up to them to decide whether to go ahead with the investment.

The main players at Sullom Voe have changed since the mid 1980s when it was handling 1.5 million barrels a day arriving through the Brent and Ninian pipelines from the North Sea.


Those two pipelines are now owned by TAQA Bratani of Abu Dhabi and Canada’s CNR, supplying 150,000 barrels a day – one tenth of the peak figure.

A further 100,000 barrels a day arrive from BP’s Schiehallion field via shuttle tanker and by pipe from BP’s Clair field west of Shetland

Schiehallion will close down to be upgraded early next year, with production resuming in 2015 from a new module. Sullom Voe will get the oil in the short term, but the long term future is uncertain.

One of the two new Clair Ridge platforms west of Shetland. Pic. BP plc

Meanwhile Clair Ridge, the second phase of development for the massive 7 billion barrel reservoir, will more than double output from the field to 130,000 barrels a day in 2016, requiring two new crude tanks at Sullom.

Spence said he wanted the terminal to be ready to handle the increase in production and to be in a good position to battle for Schiehallion production, and other potential north Atlantic business.

Once the terminal’s new £60 million Aurora gas plant is fully operational early next year, he wants to start ring fencing parts of the old plant to send in dedicated teams to work without interruption.

“That way we can do things quicker and not rely on our day to day operations team,” he said.

“We are not sure how many people or how much money will be involved yet, but we could potentially ramp up to 200 people in 2014/5, and spend around £100 million over three to five years.

“By doing that we should get back to a more manageable level of fabric maintenance.”

The terminal would not be able to accommodate such numbers, so a floating accommodation barge or even building a temporary camp are being considered, along with questions about how to fly men in and out of the isles.

The move comes just as Total are boosting the number of workers on the isles to build their gas plant next to Sullom Voe terminal, for which they are building a new 100 bed hotel at Brae.


“Our aim if this is approved is to start to get people to work on this intervention as soon as we can in a small way and then build up to when we can get to a place where we can really execute the work efficiently and safely,” Spence said.

“This is a really important time. We are going from a past where we have been in decline to a really bright future. It’s a time of transition.”