Work on the construction phase at Total’s Shetland Gas Plant (SGP) is in full swing, with around 800 men on site and more arriving all the time.
And two more flotels are due in Shetland shortly to accommodate the rapidly growing workforce.
The number of employees is expected to peak at 1,400 by the summer, when the work will enter its busiest six months. The Moorfield Hotel in Brae will also be ready by the summer and will accommodate some of the workforce.
At present around 100 locals are directly employed on the project, with specialist trades such as welders and joiners having to be brought to the isles from other parts of the UK to meet the skill shortage.
<i>The Shetland Times </i>was invited to look around the £500 million SGP project, which will handle gas from the Laggan-Tormore field 143 km west of Shetland. Total president Yves-Louis Darricarrere, who was in the isles for the tour of the site today.
Production is scheduled to start next year, when gas will be imported to the plant, have the liquid removed and be compressed before being exported 243 km by pipeline to St Fergus for final processing.
Components for the SGP project have been sourced worldwide and, as far as possible, transported by sea, arriving at the Sullom Voe construction jetty in modular form.
The two enormous fire water tanks now in place, and five MEG tanks are being erected to contain mono-ethylene glycol, which will be injected into the Laggan-Tormore pipeline once gas starts flowing to keep it fluid.
A “slug catcher”, built in Italy, prevents sudden large bursts of water from entering the gas stream, and the liquid treatment area, built in Kuwait, separates the gas from the liquid hydrocarbons, or condensate, which goes to BP for export.
The SGP has its own concrete batching plant to mix the 234,000 cubic metres of concrete needed for the project.
Mr Darricarrere stressed the importance of Laggan-Tormore, not only for its gas and condensate reserves of 230 million barrels of oil equivalent, but for future activity in the west of Shetland region. He expects Laggan-Tormore to become a “hub”, in the way Total’s Alwyn oil and gas field in the North Sea is – that is, a support centre for neighbouring fields.
He said: “I am extremely confident Laggan-Tormore will become a hub, that’s why we took up the amount of acreage [we did] in the area.” Edradour is another field shortly to be developed nearby.
As the “behaviour of fields” means they are gradually reducing, any delay in extracting oil and gas would be “destructive”, he said.
Mr Darricarrere was accompanied by Total’s Northern Europe vice president Patrice de Vivies, and managing director of Total E&P UK Philippe Guys, to see the developments as the construction phase nears its peak.
Mr de Vivies agreed that the company’s aim was to limit the natural decline, improve recovery rates and prolong the life of the infrastructure.
Mr Guys said that Total would double its UK production by 2015 thanks to Laggan-Tormore and Elgin-Franklin. The latter started production again last month after problems last year.
Project manager Robert Faulds said the project will be worth £185 million to the Shetland economy in its lifetime. Once complete it will produce 500 million standard cubic feet of gas per day and employ 80 full-time workers.
For more on the Total tour see this week’s Shetland Times.