Offshore industry figures, government agencies and local port users descended on Lerwick to celebrate the opening of the expanded deep-water Dales Voe base in the town’s harbour.
And they were told that Lerwick Port Authority already has ambitious plans to develop an “ultra deep water quay” that would allow Lerwick to challenge Norwegian yards for the biggest decommissioning projects.
The LPA organised Tuesday’s event to demonstrate what Dales Voe was already capable of handling – with the towering Buchan Alpha platform acting as a suitably impressive backdrop.
Among the guests were Oil and Gas Authority director of operations Gunther Newcombe, Highlands and Islands Enterprise director of energy and low carbon Audrey MacIver, and Oil & Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie.
Local business leaders and other prominent individuals were invited to the event which also saw speeches from LPA chief executive Sandra Laurenson and chairman Ronnie Gair. Harbour master Calum Grains also gave a presentation at Shetland Museum before guests were bussed to Dales Voe.
The Buchan Alpha floating production unit arrived in Lerwick Harbour earlier this month to be dismantled. It is the largest major decommissioning project to be handled in Shetland and Ms Laurenson said it reinforced the isles “position as a leader in the emerging decommissioning market”.
She painted a positive picture when referring to the kind of projects LPA would be able to accommodate.
Ms Laurenson said: “As well as celebrating the investment recently made by the port, we are already looking ahead to future requirements, with Lerwick being seen increasingly as the potential location for a UK ultra-deep-water decommissioning facility, to suit the largest semi-submersible crane vessels.
“It would allow us to compete with overseas locations, with significant benefits to Shetland, Scotland and the UK. Discussions are ongoing as to the terms and timing of such a major development.”
The Buchan Alpha deal was clinched with the award of a contract by Repsol Sinopec Resources UK to French-based Veolia, who will oversee the work in association with Peterson. It is said the project will create around 30 jobs over the 17-month decommissioning period.
HIE invested in the £12m Dales Voe project and Ms MacIver said Tuesday’s celebration represented the culmination of a huge amount of work involving the LPA, HIE, Scottish and UK governments and the Oil and Gas Authority.
“It’s great to see Dales Voe competing successfully for contracts, such as the decommissioning of Buchan Alpha which itself is a tremendous success story. It demonstrates not only the quality of the facilities here, but also the capabilities of the supply chain companies and personnel,” Ms MacIver said.
“Our investment, along with support from partners, secures and enhances Shetland’s position to become a leading hub for decommissioning works in the North Sea. The location has been placed at the forefront of the sector in the UK and earned it the reputation and title of the UK’s onshore centre of excellence in decommissioning.”
Oil & Gas UK’s Deirdre Michie said: “The newly-extended Dales Voe port facility is an excellent example of insightful investment, supporting the competitiveness of the UK’s supply chain through a range of offshore activities, including exploration and production, as well as the steadily growing decommissioning sector.”
The dismantling and recycling of the Buchan FPU – the largest project in more than a decade of decommissioning at Lerwick – will be carried out at the Dales Voe and Greenhead bases.
It has to be deballasted before being brought alongside at Dales Voe, which boasts a depth of 12.5 metres.
The base has been expanded in an £11.95m project overseen by the port authority, with £2.39m in funding from the Scottish government and HIE, recognising the strategic importance of the location, and with funding from Bank of Scotland.
The project added 75 metres to bring the quay to 127 metres and , according to the LPA it provides the offshore industry with the strongest quay in the UK, at 60 tonnes per square metre, with unmatched capability and accepting the largest platform topsides using single lift technology. It also created an adjacent 45,000 square metres of lay-down space.
At the Greenhead, Peterson operates Scotland’s only licensed quayside decommissioning pad, covering 20,000 square metres. Both bases also support subsea field development.
• More on this story and the potential for developing the Dales Voe quay will appear in Friday’s Shetland Times.