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Update: ‘Support element’ for subsea tank led to EnQuest platform evacuation

Enquest thistle platform
A contractor is soon to be selected for removal of the Thistle and Heather topsides, EnQuest said.

EnQuest has confirmed that the crew of a North Sea platform that was evacuated yesterday are now being flown ashore.

All 115 crew members were down-manned from the Thistle Alpha installation on Monday after a “subsea structural inspection” and taken by helicopter to the nearby Dunlin platform.

The operator has now said the inspection related to a “support element” on a redundant subsea storage tank.

EnQuest has shut down production at the platform, which will remain the case until remediation action is taken.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is investigating.

ALSO READ: EnQuest should be ‘transparent’ on Thistle platform issues, says union boss

Bob Davenport, managing director of North Sea operations at EnQuest, said: “The safety of our people is our absolute priority. Our offshore installation manager took proactive action to transfer everyone from the platform as a precaution following yesterday’s inspection.

“This was carried out safely and quickly, with plans then made for their onward travel home. Further inspection work will be conducted and the platform will remain shutdown until that has concluded and any necessary remedial action undertaken.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved for their support including the team onboard Dunlin, employees, contractors and the Maritime Coastguard Agency.”

The firm did not provide an estimate of how long the remedial work could take.

Thistle lies around 125-miles north-east of Shetland.

It is one of the few times that a platform has been down-manned due to structural concerns.

In 2017 CNR International’s Ninian South was evacuated ahead of a storm “to safely manage the structural integrity of the Ninian Southern jacket”.

That year Repsol Sinopec Resources UK (RSRUK) also agreed to suspend output from the now-decommissioned Buchan Alpha platform as the HSE had concerns about fatigue in the rig’s legs.

RMT regional officer Jake Molloy described the Thistle situation as “highly unusual” with the potential for an “extensive intervention” by subsea teams to assess the integrity issue.

A Health and Safety Executive spokesman said: “HSE is aware of the evacuation on the EnQuest Thistle platform and making further enquiries.”


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