Boom time again at Sullom Voe?

Sullom Voe Terminal will be the site of another mini-oil boom if plans to build a gas-sweetening plant go ahead as expected, the head of BP’s North Sea operations indicated yesterday.

Regional president Trevor Garlick was in Shetland for a two-day visit to see the progress of a major refurbishment scheme that will include the terminal as well as other North Sea assets.

Trevor Garlick
Trevor Garlick

While the necessary inspection and overhaul of infrastructure has been commit­ted to, a complex negotiation is ongoing between SVT, Schiehallion and other West of Shetland fields that could see the building of a large gas-sweetening plant at Sullom Voe.

That is the most attractive option for the oil industry partners, who otherwise would have to pump the gas, which contains excess levels of hydrogen sulphide, back into the oil wells.

It is hoped that temporary exports from Schiehallion, planned to be back on-stream by the end of 2016, will become a permanent feature of SVT operations, Mr Garlick said.

The gas plant and refurbishment works, which already employ about 200 on-site, could see close to another 1,000 jobs on-site when operations peak in a few years’ time. That will place major pressures on recruit­ment and accommodation, Mr Garlick said.

A balance had to be struck between the excellent prospects of the North Sea sector, whose busiest locus by far is Shetland, and the challenges posed by level of investment and recruiting required.

While the short and mid-term prospects for SVT are excellent, there are potential bottlenecks in recruitment owing to the shortage of locally qualified staff – one recent recruitment drive had yielded only seven competent recruits from 370 applicants.

As a result, BP will be introducing a two-week on, three-week off system that will bring the terminal workforce in line with “oil industry standards”. Workers will be expected to stay in near-site accommodation during their 14-day shift irrespective of where they are based.

Mr Garlick said that this will help operationally and act as an incentive for recruitment. Whilst BP would ideally like to see everyone recruited locally, the demand on competencies will inevitably see much of the workforce being recruited from existing offshore or onshore oil installations.

He said that BP and nearby Shetland Gas Plant operator Total had co-operated well in providing workforce accommodation and BP and partners were examining all possibilities for housing a swelling workforce. He could not specify how this would be achieved as negotiations were ongoing with potential accommodation providers.

“In the longer term we will want to have a new accommodation building that we have exclusive use of,” Mr Garlick said.

He added that if Schiehallion oil comes to SVT, expected total throughput for the terminal could climb to 400,000 barrels per day, still far short of the 1.5 million barrels the terminal experienced in its heyday. Sullom Voe is presently seeing a throughput of only about 100,000 barrels a day from Brent and Ninian pipelines.

In the longer term, projections are for terminal throughput of 250,000 barrels well into the 2020s. Mr Garlick speculated that the terminal would still be operational by 2045, subject to deals with the local authority, but by that time other oil fields and operators may have come on stream.

East of Shetland operations were more of a long-term risk, he added.

Mr Garlick was due to meet Shetland Islands Council representatives and other stakeholders last night, before continuing his site visit and small-team meetings today.

The South Korean Hyundai shipyard is meanwhile making good progress with the Glen Lyon, a replacement loading ship for the Schiehallion field. A deep-sea drilling rig, Deep Sea Aberdeen, is also well on the way to being commissioned for Schiehallion.


Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • April 17th, 2014 22:12

    Great news!

    At least, for Holyrood and/or Westminster.

    Wake up, Shetland!

  • John Tulloch

    • April 17th, 2014 22:23

    400,000 tonnes per day? Was that a typo?

    Only a tonne isn’t the same as a barrel.

    • laurence paton

      • April 18th, 2014 20:18

      Yes John , 400,000 tons is approximately 2.5 million barrels.

    • John Tulloch

      • April 19th, 2014 8:14

      Aren’t there about seven barrels to the tonne?

      Which is it, 400,000 barrels a day or 400,000 tonnes a day?

  • John Newcombe

    • April 17th, 2014 22:24

    This is great news but i really must question why they could only recruit 7 people in a recent recruitment drive from 370 applicants , two reasons spring to mind, 1 they are being too strict with their entry level requirements and, 2. they don’t feel the local people are competent enough to learn an adapt to the oil and gas environment which is complete rubbish !

    I also feel the local people are being badly let down by the local training providers , i mean where are the courses that can help folk gain some qualifications to enhance their prospects, i hate to say it but the Mareel money would have been better used investing in setting up a training and skills centre for Oil and Gas professionals.

    Ive worked in the Oil industry world wide and i know that its nothing that people cant learn given a chance. But you first must get that chance !

    • Johan Adamson

      • April 18th, 2014 9:01

      Yes, I heard they had failed to get the jobs because of some course that the staff all have to do as a minimum standard – none of the applicants had it. But surely the oil companies are more than capable of speaking to the college, recruiting a trainer and hiring some space to do this in. If you were a cynic, you would believe the indigenous population are being left out of this.

      But wasnt it the same in the ’70s – you had more chance of a job at SVT if you lived away?

  • Neil Anderson

    • April 17th, 2014 22:28

    What are local training providers doing to assist people in gaining qualifications to assist them entering the Oil Industry ?

  • Ali Inkster

    • April 18th, 2014 9:33

    Teaching them ta mak thing fae bits o oo an macaroni, Neil. I have been banging that particular drum on these pages for a while, For some reason our educators thought engineering is not the way forward into the future, they would not or did not have the ability to set up a department to cater for this discipline. They were incapable of getting the apprentices into the local college, and incapable of setting up a work placement scheme with local employers. not enough call for it apparently.

  • Ian Tinkler

    • April 20th, 2014 9:30

    Perhaps a little more education in the STEM subjects would be in order. Shetland has the young talent, unfortunately our political elite, at all levels, are mostly scientifically illiterate. Maybe that’s why so much resource is targeted at the Creative Industries. By comparison to engineering and technology, creative industries have little productive or useful to offer.

  • william simpson

    • July 3rd, 2014 20:20

    im looking for work up in sullom voe i have my bosiet / mist cert also cv etc


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