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.
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.