Big box to dominate Holmsgarth for a week

The new "curious" addition to the harbour will be docked at Holmsgarth. Photo: John Coutts

The new “curious” addition to the harbour will be docked at Holmsgarth. Photo: John Coutts

A eight-storey high metal box will be added to the collection of floating oddities in Lerwick harbour next month when Premier Oil brings its new subsea oil storage facility to town.

Premier Oil executives explained their plans to Lerwick Community Council on Monday night and warned councillors that the oil tank will be big, ugly and outlandish, but only in port for a time before being shipped to the Solan field about 90 kilometres west of Shetland.

The oil tank, half the size of a football field and eight-storeys high, will be docked at Holmsgarth 4, to the south of the NorthLink ferry terminal, for welding and final fitting – work that should last about a week. Designed in London and built in Dubai, the tank will be taken north by a giant semi-submersible ship before being unloaded and towed into Lerwick.

The project will involve “20 to 25 people” from Peterson SBS who will provide support services and plant on a 24-hour basis while the box is on town.

HSE manager for the Solan field Bill Brazendale said that Premier Oil was letting the community council know their plans for the “big and unusual looking” box as a courtesy and that the public had no need to be alarmed when it arrives in the first week in July. It was bound, he acknowledged, to be a major source of curiosity to the public.

Councillors were shown a photo of the tank with a worker perched atop appearing no bigger than an ant.

The subsea tank has 64 compartments and will spend the next 30 years under about 130m of seawater where it will be a temporary repository for the estimated 42 million barrels of oil in the field. Oil is expected to start flowing from Solan in the last quarter of this year.

Of equal interest will be the 216m long Chinese heavy lift vessel Xiang Yun Kou, which will take the box to Lerwick. The vessel submerges itself to get big loads aboard before resurfacing with its cargo on deck.

Community councillor Allan Wishart thanked Premier Oil for taking the time to visit the council – “a first” for an oil company, but joked that, much as a visit to the dentist, he was “apprehensive” when being reassured there was nothing to worry about.

Lerwick Port Authority had made no mention of the new arrival in their briefing on harbour developments at the previous month’s community council, it was noted.

Eagle-eyed councillor Michael Peterson spotted Premier Oil’s commitment to community investment in the company’s information sheets which included “support for charities promoting the empowerment of marginalised groups, local economic opportunities and access to educational activities.” Premier had spent $341,000 on community investment in the UK in 2013.

The community council later resolved to officially thank Premier Oil for their briefing while inquiring about the possibility of community investment in Shetland.

Premier Oil is one of the lesser known oil companies but is in the process of “aggressive expansion”, according to Mr Brazendale.

It was founded in Scotland in 1934 and is in the FTSE 250 list of companies with operations mainly in south-east Asia and the Falklands but with a presence in the North Sea since 1971.

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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