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Energy / Ninian Northern rig arrives in Lerwick for decommissioning

The Ninian Northern topside arriving in Dales Voe on board the Pioneering Spirit. Photo: Shetland News

LERWICK Port Authority is celebrating another momentous moment after the Pioneering Spirit, the largest construction ship in the world, edged her way into Dales Voe with the 14,200-tonne topside of the Ninian Northern platform on board.

A number of snappers lined the road between Rova Head and the Dales Voe decommissioning yard in Lerwick trying to get the perfect shot to mark the occasion late on Friday afternoon.

It is the largest offshore structure to be decommissioned at the deep-water Shetland port.

Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Calum Grains says the arrival of the Ninian Northern topside is ‘the start of a tremendous operation here at Lerwick harbour’. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Captain Calum Grains said it was a “welcome boost” to Shetland amid the Covid-19 downturn.

It also marks the inauguration of a new heavy-duty decommissioning pad at Dales Voe.

It was confirmed in October 2018 that a consortium of logistics firm Peterson and Veolia had won the contract to decommission the topside.

At the same time, the Scottish Government confirmed that Dales Voe had been selected as the preferred site for an ultra deep quayside for decommissioning.

Peterson and Veolia have a 97 per cent recycling target for the project.

The 382-metre Pioneering Spirit, the largest construction and decommissioning vessel in the worldleft the Norwegian port of Kristiansand on Thursday morning to go to the Ninian field, around 100 miles north east of Shetland, to pick up the massive structure, an operation that took about two hours.

Allseas, the company that owns and operates the Pioneering Spirt, said the actual ‘fast lift’ of the topside from the jackets on to the vessel took only seven seconds. The company also confirmed that the platform’s remaining jacket structure will be removed  in summer 2022.

Once in position at Dales Voe the crew on board the Pioneering Spirit will prepare for the transfer of the Ninian Northern topside to the barge Iron Lady.

Watching progress form the quayside at Dales Voe, the LPA chief executive said: “Overnight the topside will be transferred to a large cargo barge. That operation will take seven or eight hours overnight.

“The barge will then be transferred to the quayside, and over the weekend the platform will be skidded onshore, across the quay at Dales Voe, into a newly decommissioning pad.”

Ninian Northern was installed in 1978 and started producing a couple of years later before ceasing in 2017.

It follows the decommissioning of the Buchan Alpha oil production facility, which was brought to Dales Voe in 2017 for dismantling by Peterson/Veolia.

Grains added: “This is the start of a tremendous operation here at Lerwick harbour. We are all really proud to be part of the team that has made this operation happening, as it shows our capability and capacity of the size of project that we can do at Lerwick.

The barge is brought into position in preparation of the transfer for the topside from the Pioneering Spirit to the barge. Photo: Shetland News

“The arrival of the Ninian Northern topside at our Dales Voe base is a welcome boost to activity in Shetland amidst the Covid-19 downturn and another very important stage in the development of Lerwick’s reputation as an active, leading centre for decommissioning.

“The pad is a significant addition to our unique quayside infrastructure, not only as a catalyst for handling larger offshore structures, but also in attracting the interest of the renewables sector for future projects, particularly floating offshore wind developments.

“We have been expanding and building here at Dales Voe for exactly this type of opportunity for about 12 years. We have expanded the space, we built a new decommissioning pad and we extended the quayside with a unique piece of infrastructure which can take the weight of these platforms: it couldn’t be done on a normal quayside.

“The scale of the topside, the single-lift delivery and the infrastructure already in place adds to weight to the widely-accepted case for Lerwick to be the location of an ultra-deep-water quay in the UK for even bigger projects in the competitive international decommission and renewables industries. The proposal has strong government and industry support.”

Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said the arrival of the topside was “further evidence of the strength of Scotland’s decommissioning supply chain and capabilities, knowledge and skills held within the industry”.

He said the Scottish Government remains committed to establishing an ultra-deep-water port at Dales Voe.

Investment in the port authority has been backed by the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Bank of Scotland, who have provided financial assistance for the quay development at the base, as well as the decommissioning pad.