Repsol Sinopec’s Montrose Area Redevelopment is North Sea’s litmus test

The Montrose Area Redevelopment
The Montrose Area Redevelopment

The redevelopment of the Montrose Area (MAR) will serve as the North Sea’s litmus test, according to its project manager.

The £1.6billion revamp is at the heart of the newly renamed Respol Sinopec Resources UK’s strategy. But more than dominating the firm’s summer workload, the project should serve as an example of how North Sea can reinvent itself in later life, according to Hugh McClure.

It’s an investment decision which will see one of the North Sea’s oldest platform transform and add an additional 100 million barrels of oil to the basin’s outgoings.

Mr McClure, who left Dana Petroleum to oversee the redevelopment, said: “We describe this as a hub. Montrose is almost 40 years old. You could have said it’s finished and just sat back, but we’re not doing that.

“We’re working the infrastructure and platform that is there.

“It’s a good project to be involved in because it’s a life conversion project to give it the capacity to suck in all those smaller, easy to reach reserves. We’re trying to make the existing infrastructure sweat a bit more or in other words making the most of the infrastructure we have already have.

“It’s about getting the very last bit out of the UKCS.”

Making the existing North Sea assets “sweat more” is key to its longevity, according to the industry veteran.

“These big monster fields I don’t believe are out there anymore,” he said.

“If you find one you’re lucky. It’s all about investing the resource in the projects, which give you the quicker rate of return.”

But more effort needs to be done to ensure the North Sea can remain competitive with US shale.

“I think we need to work smarter. There’s a lot of oil in the North Sea. The type of opportunities are just different,” he said.

“We need to be faster. If you look at US shale they’re able to invest and get a payback very quickly.

“It’s the rate of return and we need to start looking at the payback for North Sea projects and start doing the jobs that get the quicker results, because that’s important to us.”

MAR includes the new bridge-linked platform (BLP) which will connect the Montrose Alpha platform – one of the oldest in the North Sea – to provide additional process plant support facilities. The area consists of the Montrose, Arbroath, Arkwrighte, Brechin, Wood, Goodwin, Shaw and Cayley fields. The project will unlock an additional 100 million barrels and extend its field life through 2030.

Cayley and Shaw are being developed as subsea tiebacks to the BLP. The fields are expected to come on stream in early 2017 with peak production of 40,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day.

“We’re not just building a new facility next to an old facility but we’re actually ripping out the heart and mind of the old one – everything you need to run a platform and that’s a very difficult thing to do with live operation on-going,” McClure said.

Despite the challenges, the rewards would not be Respol Sinopec’s alone, according to McClure.

He added: “I feel lucky to work on something that symbolises that there’s still a story here in the North Sea.

“If we do this job properly and deliver what we said were going to deliver that is something that people can build upon. But if we don’t deliver it’s going to put people off investing in a mature basin, so we have a lot of responsibility.”

To hear how chief executive Bill Dunnett dealt with industry gossip and charted a new course for the firm click here.