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Business / ‘Exciting times’ for port as Ninian Northern jacket arrives for decommissioning

Pioneering Spirit at Dales Voe. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

THE WORLD’s largest construction vessel has arrived in Lerwick as the decommissioning of the Ninian Northern oil platform reaches its next phase.

The huge Pioneering Spirit arrived at Dales Voe in the early hours of Friday morning carrying the 8,500 tonne, 83-metre high steel jacket from the platform following removal in a single lift from the field, 100 miles north-east of the islands.

Her arrival was originally scheduled for last weekend, but there were some delays.

Like the Ninian Northern topside in August 2020, the jacket will be removed in a single lift and transferred ashore at the base via the barge Iron Lady in a complex operation that will take several days.

This time, however, the Pioneering Spirit will operate directly at the Dales Voe quayside – the first time she has done so in the UK.

The Pioneering Spirit carrying the 8,500 tonne jacket of the Ninian Northern oil platform. Photo: Malcolm Younger

The jacket will be dismantled and recycled over approximately eight months by Veolia/Peterson.

Speaking to Shetland News whilst overlooking the Pioneering Spirit on Friday morning, Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Calum Grains said the project was a particular huge boost to the local supply chain.

And he confirmed that the Veolia/Peterson partnership is active in looking for more decommissioning work for Shetland over the next number of years.

Port authority chief executive Calum Grains. Photo: Shetland News

“It’s a fantastic picture this morning for everybody involved with decommissioning in Shetland,” Grains said.

“Decommissioning is a really important part of the energy transition, and the decommissioning sector in its own right is a huge business, which Lerwick has got a huge part to play in I think. It’s a really growing opportunity for us here.

“There’s quite a number of fields to coming to the end of their economic lives, so they have to come ashore for recycling, cleaning etcetera. At Lerwick we’ve got the facilities to handle the really big projects.”

For those wanting to catch a glimpse at the Pioneering Spirit, she will be sticking around the voe for a little while – partly to get ready for its next job in the Norwegian sector.

She is 382 metres in length and is 124 metres wide.

Grains described the port authority as the “facilitator” in the process, with the supply chain companies the main benefactors.

For the Ninian Northern topside around 30 to 40 people worked directly on the project, and there may be a similar number involved in dismantling the jacket.

The port chief added that decommissioning in Lerwick is now becoming more of a “pipeline of work” – rather than a big job here or there.

“We’re really hopeful that following this project we’ll have something to follow it right behind,” he said.

The eight-legged Ninian Northern platform, a drilling and production facility, was installed in 1978 and began work in 1980.

Output ceased in 2017, and the dismantling of the jacket marks the final phase of the platform.

Meanwhile the port authority’s development of the Dales Voe pad was backed by the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Bank of Scotland.

It is continuing to progress with its plans for a government-backed ultra-deep-water quay at Dales Voe.

Pioneering Spirit arriving at Dales Voe this morning. Photo: Malcolm Younger/Millgaet Media