Major decommissioning project for Lerwick

The Buchan Alpha has produced nearly 150 million barrels of oil in the last 36 years.

A MAJOR piece of decommissioning work is heading Shetland’s way after it was confirmed that the Buchan Alpha oil production vessel is to be dismantled and recycled in Lerwick.

Lerwick Port Authority (LPA) chief executive Sandra Laurenson said the project should place Lerwick “at the forefront” as one of the major decommissioning yards for the North Sea.

Local MSP Tavish Scott hailed the contract as “tremendous news” for the isles and hoped that it will open the doors to a new industry in Shetland.

A total of 35 new jobs will be created and the project is expected to last for 17 months.

The work will be carried out by environmental solutions company Veolia and Peterson at Lerwick Port Authority’s Dales Voe and Greenhead bases.

The Buchan Alpha is a semi-submersible moored floating production vessel located around 156km northeast of Aberdeen.

The former drilling rig produced nearly 150 million barrels of oil over its 36 year lifespan before it ceased production on 12 May.

Laurenson said the work should increase Shetland’s profile in decommissioning, an industry which she admits has been a bit “stop start” in the isles until now.

Minor decommissioning work has taken place at Greenhead in Lerwick over the last decade, but the Buchan Alpha contract is the largest contract yet.

“It’s one of the areas that we see a future growth as decommissioning begins to accelerate or mature, because it’s been a peerie bit stop start up until now,” Laurenson said.

“Although there’s decommissioning happening here all the time at Greenhead Base, it’s not the headline big structures, so I think that’s really good for increasing the profile of what Peterson and Veolia is doing, and keeping Lerwick at the forefront as one of the major decom yards around the North Sea.”

Laurenson said LPA has been working on attracting decommissioning work to the town for nearly 20 years.

She added that the Buchan Alpha job should be a good fit for Shetland as it won’t need a particularly large workforce.

“It doesn’t need huge numbers of people, so I think that’s a really good fit for the labour market that’s available in Shetland, and a project of this scale will allow Peterson and Veolia to improve their capabilities and their understanding of this particular sector.”

Scott meanwhile said Shetland is perfectly placed to undertake decommissioning work from the North Sea.

“Lerwick Port Authority and their partner companies have been working very hard to attract decommissioning business to Shetland,” he said.

“This is a real contract after months of effort and is a very positive signal to the oil industry that Shetland is the place for this work. We are in the right place on the map, we have the skills and expertise and the harbour facilities to undertake decommissioning.

“I hope today’s announcement is the first of many and will open up a new industry for Shetland.”

Senior executive vice-president of Veolia UK & Ireland Estelle Brachlianoff added: “We are delighted with the award of the prestigious Buchan Alpha decommissioning contract which reflects our proven safety and environmental track record and our commitment to delivering this project to the highest operational standards.

“We will be targeting a recycling rate of over 98 per cent at the new Dales Voe decommissioning facility in Lerwick where we will work closely with our partners, Peterson and Lerwick Port Authority to boost the local economy by creating 35 jobs and develop strong relationships with the local community.”

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government minister for business, innovation and energy, commented that it is “great news, which clearly demonstrates the skills, capabilities and competitiveness of Scotland’s supply chain in securing this contract”.