The new gas plant currently being built at Sullom Voe will underpin the long-term development of the terminal, according to manager Lindsay Boswell.
The construction of the plant, known as the Aurora project, marks the biggest change at the site since the existing gas plant was commissioned in 1982.
Mr Boswell said: “The plant is expected to be there through the next decade and beyond and places us well for new developments east of Shetland.”
The new gas plant will replace the older, larger one which was designed for “peak throughput” at the height of the oil boom. It will continue to deal with crude oil from the Brent and Ninian fields east of Shetland in a process that will effectively be the same, though on a smaller scale. This reflects the smaller capacity needed on the terminal.
Fewer people will be needed to work in the new gas plant, with the present workforce of 214 expected to drop to 170. Mr Boswell said that would be achieved by normal leaving and there would be no compulsory redundancies.
The £60 million construction was sanctioned in March last year. Work started last July and is on target to be operational in August next year.
Aurora project manager Clive Twiggins said he was delighted the project was being delivered safely and on time and on budget. “I am very pleased with the excellent safety record. We are meeting all targets to commence next summer. The gas plant is going to be here for 20 years and more, securing the future of the terminal and allowing us to stay here for years to come. It is a source of employment and supports the local economy.”
Parts for the gas plant were largely built elsewhere in the UK and Europe and shipped pre-assembled to the terminal’s construction jetty. A particular milestone was reached two weeks ago with the erection of the fractination tower, which separates light gas from heavy oil condensate. This was done in a “weather window” at 3am and required the use of the largest crane in Europe.
The smaller capacity gas plant was deemed appropriate for current throughput at the terminal, which is only one fifth of what it once was.
Aurora transformation manager Neil Manson said the “fairly complicated” project provided an opportunity to look at the future organisation of the whole terminal.
In the not-too-distant future liquefied petroleum gas (propane and butane) will no longer be stored on the site. Shipments are now down to a “handful” a year and will eventually cease and the four LPG tanks will eventually be removed.