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Optimism over Bibby decommissioning work

Offshore vessel Fugro Symphony being kept busy at Lerwick's Greenhead Base.

MORE decommissioning work looks set to be heading Shetland’s way after Bibby Offshore secured a multi-million pound decommissioning contract for an unnamed North Sea operator east of the islands.

Bibby is due to start work in the next couple of months on a platform around 550 kilometres north east of Aberdeen, with work scheduled to be completed before the year is out.

Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Sandra Laurenson said a steady stream of modest-sized subsea decommissioning work had been flowing into the harbour’s Greenhead Base for the past decade.

She “very much hopes” that the Bibby contract “will be destined to be come here as well”.

“I’m fairly optimistic that it will be here,” she said. “I’m expecting the size of kit that they’ll be able to bring on their own ship rather than stuff that needs to go on a barge.

“That kind of subsea decommissioning is the bread-and-butter thing that happens quietly in the background. What catches headlines is the massive structures and topsides off a platform, but there’s not many projects like that tendered yet.

LPA chief executive Sandra Laurenson: small-scale decommissioning is important to keep things ticking over.

“The important thing is [the smaller work] maintains the skills and the place in decommissioning with a view to the bigger kit that we have an eye on in the future.”

Laurenson said a lot of the old kit had been dismantled as part of the £3 billion QUAD 204 redevelopment, but it had yet to be brought ashore.Later this year old subsea kit from BP’s refurbished Schiehallion field will be disposed of in Lerwick.

With oil prices expected to stay at a lower level in the medium term, she said that while many companies would “prefer not to have to spend the money at all”, there does come a point where it is cheaper to decommission rather than keep ageing North Sea fields compliant with regulations.

“If they’re not producing at the end of their lifetime, in order to fix them up it’s maybe cheaper to take them out, so I think that will start to happen over the next five years,” Laurenson said.

The Bibby contract will involve the removal of pipeline bundles, subsea structures and seabed debris.

Waste disposal, involving the recovery of items that can be decontaminated, disposed of or recycled, will be followed by an “over-trawl” of the cleared North Sea field.

Once it has been dismantled the material will eventually leave Shetland on a scrap boat as metal for recycling.

Bibby Offshore chief operating officer Fraser Moonie said: “With more oil and gas infrastructures reaching the end of their design life, multi-industry experience is key to ensuring each project is completed in a safe and responsible manner.”

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