Total hopes to start work on £500 million gas plant next summer

Oil giant Total still hopes to start digging at Sullom Voe this time next year to build its £500 million gas plant despite project delays which will put back first gas pro­duction until 2014.

A planning application for the west of Shetland gas hub is expected to be submitted to Shetland Islands Council’s already beleaguered plan­ning division around the end of August or early September.

The French-owned company was in Shetland on Thursday to explain the latest developments in its ground-breaking Laggan/Tor­more gas project at a public meeting in The Shetland Hotel.

A major change revealed is the decision to move the proposed site of the gas plant 300 metres to the north-east of the previous ear­marked site for safety reasons and to avoid affecting the Burn of Crooksetter. The complex will stand to the east of the reclaimed Orka Voe, entirely outside the existing Sullom Voe Terminal perimeter fence.

Total’s manager of new business, Paul Mason, said the field approval process was taking longer than previously hoped. Sanction by the UK government will not now happen in September but the green light is anticipated early next year, possibly as late as March.

He said site preparation at Sullom Voe could still be under way by mid-2010 but dependency on summer weather windows for off­shore work meant production would be pushed back from 2013 to 2014.

As previously predicted, the construction works in Shetland are likely to need 400-500 workers and include building the complex gas plant and burying two pipelines from Orka Voe to the terminal and one pipe out again through Firths Voe. Mr Mason said 60-70 perman­ent employees will be needed to operate the gas plant and remotely operate the offshore wells.

Total’s project is of major importance to Shetland and the UK because it could allow other west of Shetland explorers to start gas production at greatly reduced cost by sending their gas to shore through Total’s pipes.

Production from Laggan/Tormore will be exported through a new pipe to join a large pipeline to the St Fergus gas terminal near Peterhead. Oil condensate extracted from the gas will be stored at Sullom Voe and exported by tanker.

Total also announced it had appointed two new managers for the project, including Lerwegian Rhonda Kelly who is based in Aberdeen as third party liaison manager. Christophe Aubin has been made gas processing plant manager and will eventually be based in Shetland when the gas hub is operating.


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