Construction work on Total’s new gas-treatment plant at Sullom Voe, Shetland, got under way yesterday despite a late hitch in the French group’s ceremonial peat-cutting plans.
Local crofter Bryden Nicolson refused to allow access to the original site, at Crooksetter, because of a long-running row with the Scottish Government over sheep disease payments.
The official start of work on the £2.5billion scheme, including the new plant, was celebrated elsewhere – at Sella Ness, where the gas pipe will come ashore from the Laggan/Tormore development 90 miles west of Shetland.
The symbolic peat-cutting was carried out by David Mundell MP, the UK Government’s Scotland minister.
He joined Total executives and Shetland councillors to mark the start of essential earthworks for the £500million gas plant. The site preparation phase is due to run until 2011.
Development plans for the Laggan and Tormore gas fields completed all the necessary formalities in March, when former business secretary Lord Mandelson described the project as a “major win for the islands, Scotland and the UK”.
As many as 700 construction jobs are anticipated as well as up to 70 permanent positions when Laggan/Tormore output starts in 2014.
Total has teamed up with Denmark’s Dong Energy for the project, for which the gas plant is due for completion in spring 2014.
Mr Mundell said: “With one-fifth of the UK’s remaining gas reserves, the west-of-Shetland fields will play a significant role in meeting our energy needs as well as providing jobs in the local economy and beyond.”
Total Exploration and Production UK managing director Roland Festor said: “After what seems like a very long journey to reach this stage, we are delighted that world has now started. As well as extending Total’s presence on the UK continental shelf, the project will help secure domestic energy supplies for the UK and provide both jobs and economic investment for the Shetland islands.”
Mr Nicolson refuses access to the Crooksetter site by any government official because he says he is owed £222,000 from a Scottish scheme to eradicate scrapie, the sheep form of mad cow disease.
Total’s directors appointed Christophe de Margerie as chairman yesterday to succeed Thierry Desmarest in addition to his role as chief executive. Mr Desmarest remains a member of Total’s board and has been appointed honorary chairman.