By JOHN ROBERTSON
Up to 500 workers will be needed at Sullom Voe to build Total’s gas plant and pipeline at the height of the construction phase between 2011 and 2013. The £2 billion project will make Shetland a staging post for gas travelling from new west of Shetland fields to consumers on the Scottish mainland.
The latest progress in the plan to tap the Laggan and Tormore gas fields was reported on Tuesday when a six-strong team from Total visited from Aberdeen to brief SIC councillors and the local media. More details will be revealed over the next few weeks when the French oil company launches an environmental consultation to assess and discuss the impact of building and operating new pipelines and the £500 million gas plant.
The Laggan/Tormore fields have the potential to pump the gas equivalent of 100,000 barrels a day through Sullom Voe from 2013, which is around one-third of current oil throughput at the terminal. Production is expected to last 15-18 years. Although the gas would not generate any tanker traffic the light oil condensate removed in the gas plant would provide the terminal with an extra 10,000-15,000 barrels a day to store and ship out.
The gas plant will need between 50 and 60 staff members to operate it. They will remotely control and operate the subsea wells 24 hours a day as well as running and maintaining the plant.
The project involves piping the gas from the seabed 87 miles to Sullom Voe through twin 18-inch pipes which will arrive through Yell Sound. After processing in the gas plant it will be sent overland from Sullom to Firth through a 30-inch pipe following the line of the existing Brent pipeline before heading out the voe to join into the Frigg pipeline, 145 miles offshore. From there it will flow to St Fergus, near Peterhead, for more processing before feeding into the UK gas mains.
Total’s business development officer David Mendelson said the ongoing economic crisis and the low oil price had not derailed the project, although it still has to be finally sanctioned by the four participating oil companies. His company’s intention is to go forward, he said. “Our focus is to get this project up and off the ground.” The project also needs planning consent and permission from the UK government.
The Total team clarified earlier information given to The Shetland Times in that the pipeline from the west fields may not be able to handle all the gas from other future discoveries. The pipes will be full to capacity with Laggan/Tormore gas to begin with and only after three or four years will there be spare room. The pipeline will have six T-junctions through which other fields would be able to feed extra gas in. However, according to Total it is likely that future gas finds in parts of the west of Shetland frontier which are more than a few miles from Laggan/Tormore would have to have their own pipelines all the way to Sullom Voe.
Total’s pipe out from Sullom to the Frigg pipeline will be built to have about 20-25 per cent spare capacity from the start, which would be available to other gas producers west of Shetland, and the space will increase as Laggan/Tormore production slows.
The environmental impact assessment involves seeking the views of the public and statutory bodies such as the SIC and Sepa. Total hopes to have that wrapped up by the end of the summer. Among the issues to be considered are the effect on the fishing industry of yet another pipeline on the seabed and the issue of digging up miles of peat to bury the pipe as it crosses over the North Mainland.
Mr Mendelson said the aim was to get “the green light” by around the end of September after which the main contractor would be chosen and wheels will start to roll next year. “It’s an aggressive timescale,” he admitted, and a few months delay could mean a year’s delay because of the need to do offshore work in good weather. Onshore works will get started but the work will reach its peak during 2011.
There are already two pipelines into the terminal from the west – the 22-inch oil pipe from the Clair field and the 20-inch West of Shetland gas pipe from Foinaven, the gas from which is pumped back out into the Magnus field to push more oil from it.