LERWICK Port Authority is already looking into whether a 24-metre “ultra deep” quay could be built at Dales Voe to accommodate the largest heavy lift vessels operating in the northern North Sea and West of Shetland.
A host of high-profile speakers from the oil and gas industry, who were in Shetland on Tuesday to celebrate the opening of the LPA’s Dales Voe decommissioning base, spoke in favour of considering Lerwick as a location for such a facility.
The port had invited guests from the oil industry and government agencies to the isles to mark the completion of a £12 million investment that has turned the existing Dales Voe pier into the strongest quay in the UK with a water depth of 12.5 metres.
Earlier this month, the floating production rig Buchan Alpha was towed into Dales Voe to become the first oil installation to be decommissioned at the new facility.
However, lifting the veil on the port authority’s plans for the future, invited guests heard from harbour master Calum Grains that in order to attract more larger vessels an ultra deep quay with a water depth of 24 metres was needed.
The port authority has already drawn up plans how this could look like and what dredging needs to be done to make it a reality.
In his presentation, Grains said the infrastructure was wanted by the UK and Scottish governments, expressing his confidence that – given the right support from government and industry – the LPA was the organisation that could built this at Dales Voe.
Port chief executive Sandra Laurenson said: “We have had an eye on the possibility of building the ultra deep quay that would suit some of the decommissioning techniques, and now that the UK government and the Scottish government both realise that they have a wish for such infrastructure to be built in the UK, there is a little bit of momentum now to see which port might be able to provide that, and we think we have got the answer here at Dales Voe.
“It is definitely something that everyone has on their wish list; the challenge of course is to fund it. We as a port wouldn’t be able to built such infrastructure speculatively.”
In his presentation, the acting head of decommissioning at the government’s Oil and Gas Authority, Gunther Newcombe, said the the decommissioning market was currently worth an estimated £60 billion.
While efficiency drives would reduce this to £39 billion over coming years, projects worth at least £5 billion would be coming forward during the next ten years.
This is a “huge industry”, he said, that needs to be competitive and attract the right skills.
He described Dales Voe as a “tremendous milestone” whose significance for the islands and the oil and gas industry should not be underestimated.
With regards to plans for an even deeper quay, Newcombe added: “When it comes to Shetland, it is one of the few locations in the UK that has the ability to go out to 24 metres, and what that means is that you could take in some of the ultra heavy lift vessels and put the topside jackets straight from the vessel onto the jetty.
“That is important as it reduces cost and improves safety because you don’t have multiple lifts.”
He added: “If Dales Voe, and potentially other sites in UK had that capability, then that would create competition because currently that facility only exists in Norway.”
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said Lerwick Harbour was “the right place” for oil and gas decommissioning.
“The Buchan Alpha rig now in Dales Voe proves that the port, the supply companies and the Peterson/Veolia partnership that won this work are internationally competitive.
“Shetland is competing, not with other yards in the UK but with Norway for more decommissioning work. So the investment that LPA has already made is the right thing to do.
“More now needs to be done in making Dales Voe the place to bring ashore these vast structures over the next decade and more. I will actively support their work with government, HIE and other agencies to ensure Lerwick is the top port for decommissioning.”
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