Production from a Shell platform in the North Sea has been virtually halted for an unknown period after a gas problem in one of its legs.
Repairs are needed on the Brent Charlie installation, which normally handles about 26,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day.
A spokesman for the energy company said yesterday that the work needed on a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system was unplanned and would take “some weeks”. Shell has received a prohibition notice from the Health and Safety Executive in connection with the system, which is not removing gas as designed.
The spokesman added: “To comply with the notice and to undertake the necessary repairs, the platform’s production will be reduced.”
He said the installation could not be shut down completely because its generators ran off gas produced from the North Sea.
The spokesman said no date had been decided yet on when the repair work would start. Discussions are continuing with the HSE. Brent Charlie normally has 151 people on board at any time, but Shell said there were no plans to “down-man” as there was no threat to them.
Jake Molloy, regional organiser for the RMT union in Aberdeen, said: “It is encouraging to see the HSE take this level of enforcement.
“It sends out all the right messages to the workforce as to how the HSE will react to failures of this nature.”
The Brent field is 116 miles north-east of Lerwick and has four large platforms – Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta.
The field was discovered in 1971 and oil production began in 1975.
Following a £1.2billion long-term field development project in the mid 1990s, Brent became predominantly a gas producer.
Senior figures from the oil and gas industry gathered in Aberdeen to discuss the findings of the latest research from Deloitte and Douglas-Westwood which examined the economic implications of dismantling North Sea infrastructure.
The study found constraints due to potential bottlenecks in the supply chain and a lack of appropriate onshore disposal facilities.
Andrew Ogram, tax partner at Deloitte in Aberdeen, said: “The . . . industry is likely to begin the process of decommissioning in the North Sea in earnest over the next 20 years. The industry will need to address the challenge of a shortage of skilled personnel and decommissioning infrastructure. Costs involved in decommissioning UK continental shelf infrastructure are estimated at £15-£20billion. However, this could prove a conservative estimate when substantive work starts in the next 10 years.”