BP to brief council on Schiehallion difficulties in secret

BP has agreed to brief councillors about its problem-hit Schiehallion oil field west of Shetland – but only in private session with the public excluded.

The offer of closed-doors talks in June was not rejected by the council’s harbour board today but to councillor Rick Nickerson it was unacceptable.

He said BP should be left in no doubt that the council, as its partner in Sullom Voe, insisted it come for “an open and frank discussion” about the technical difficulties and the future plans for the frontier oilfield.

Mr Nickerson led the call three months ago for the oil company to send a team to Shetland to explain itself after yet another extended and unplanned Schiehallion shutdown, which has a direct impact on the council’s income.

BP had been due to attend this week’s board meeting but was unable to make it.

This summer another long shutdown will put Schiehallion out of action again and cut council revenues. BP is planning to build a more suitable production ship to replace the failed one, which only went into service in 1998. For at least the past four years it has had a number of long periods offline, including most of the year in 2009.

Council harbourmaster Roger Moore said he also wants to know how long the field will be out of operation when BP takes away the FPSO Schiehallion and replaces it with the new one. The information is needed so he can set future budgets for the council.

Mr Nickerson reminded the board that when the Schiehallion field is in operation it can account for 40 per cent of the port’s income from tanker traffic.

There is a fear that BP may bypass Sullom Voe altogether with its Schiehallion oil if the new production ship is able to treat the oil, water and gas onsite and load the crude into tankers going straight to market, as happened to the Flotta terminal in Orkney with the oil from the Foinaven field which it used to handle.


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