A semi-submersible moored floating production vessel, weighing 12,000 tonnes, Buchan Alpha was built in 1973 as a drilling rig and converted for production purposes in Stornoway between 1978-80. The vessel commenced production in 1981 from the Buchan field, located in blocks 21/1A and 20/5A, and has subsequently also produced the nearby Hannay field. Production ceased, as planned, on 12 May 2017 having produced around 148mm barrels of oil.
The contract for disposal was internationally tendered and awarded to Veolia working with their strategic partner in decommissioning, Peterson, who have a proven safety and environmental track record in the decommissioning of oil and gas assets. The work will be carried out at the Dales Voe site in Lerwick. Buchan Alpha is believed to be the first major North Sea floating production facility to be disposed of in Scotland.
Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, said:
“I am delighted that we have now seen the safe arrival of the Buchan Alpha in Lerwick. This is great news for Shetland and a clear sign of the opportunities available in this emerging market. The decommissioning of the Buchan Alpha provides Scotland and our supply chain with the opportunity to demonstrate our skills, capabilities and competitiveness in this area.
“We are committed to supporting Scottish industry win this decommissioning activity as an estimated £17.6 billion is expected to be spent in the North Sea over the next decade as mature fields reach this stage in their project lifecycle. The Scottish supply chain is already capturing the majority of value from the decommissioning process, particularly in respect of well plugging and abandonment, but we are now actively supporting the industry, through the £5 million Decommissioning Challenge Fund and the Decommissioning Action Plan, to identify further investment opportunities to capture contracts for later stages of the decommissioning process. The Fund will specifically help to improve capacity at Scottish ports and increase the economic return to Scotland from a variety of removal, disposal and dismantling activities.”
Off-station work on Buchan Alpha has been ongoing, with the primary objectives of cleaning, and reducing topsides weight in preparation for tow. It will initially be moored offshore Lerwick in deeper water where the thrusters will be removed to reduce the draught, allowing it to be moved to the quayside within the next few weeks.
Veolia will then begin the dismantling of the steel structure to maximise the recycling rate with the aim of achieving 98% recycling rates.
Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice-President Veolia UK & Ireland said:
“We are expecting a growth in the decommissioning market and the Buchan Alpha contract is a significant example of this type of the potential expansion of this sector in Scotland. These offshore assets will now be recycled to give them a second, third or even fourth life creating jobs and investment in the local economy.”
Sandra Laurenson, Chief Executive of Lerwick Port Authority, added:
“The arrival of Buchan Alpha is another significant milestone following more than a decade of decommissioning at Lerwick where Buchan is the largest project yet. Recent investment, extending the Dales Voe quay and laydown, and progressing plans for an ultra-deep-water quay as the UK solution to future requirements reflect our commitment to capability and competitiveness as a leader in the emerging decommissioning market.”