BP has started preparing for the removal of the “iconic” floating production, storage and offloading vessel (FPSO) on its Foinaven field.
It made the decision due to the age of the Petrojarl Foinaven FPSO, which has suffered persistent safety problems, and the demands of operating off Shetland.
Foinaven was the first field west of Shetland to begin production, in 1997, and the FPSO is now reaching the end of its 25-year design life, BP said.
The FPSO will be taken off station next year and handed back to its owner, Teekay Corporation.
Altera Infrastructure, the FPSO’s duty holder, admitted the decision was “likely” to lead to redundancies.
The demobilisation of the vessel does not necessarily spell the end of the Foinaven field’s production life, however.
Alongside its licence partners, BP is looking at options to develop the estimated remaining resources of up to 200 million barrels from the area.
Subsea equipment will be preserved for potential future use.
Petrojarl Foinaven has not enjoyed a clean bill of health in recent years, requiring a number of lengthy shutdowns.
In February, the UK Health and Safety Executive said it had identified cracks in the ship’s hull.
Inspectors questioned the “residual strength of the hull” and cast doubts on the vessel’s suitability for operating in the harsh seas west of Shetland.
Altera said last month it had planned a significant shutdown, commencing in the second quarter, so that safety issues could be addressed.
BP said today that production from the field had been shut down in preparation for those maintenance and safety critical activities.
But the firm has concluded that Petrojarl Foinaven is “not the right vehicle” to recover the remaining resources from the area, even with further investment.
The oil major had been working with partners to consider ways of keeping the vessel operating out to 2025.
The company informed staff of its decision to remove the vessel this morning.
About 25 BP staff members support the Foinaven asset onshore and offshore.
A spokesman for BP said there would not be any redundancies at the company as a result of its decision.
Those employees will help manage the vessel’s departure and work on future development options.
The typical number of people on board the ship is around 90.
Emeka Emembolu, senior vice president, BP North Sea, said: “The Petrojarl Foinaven FPSO has been an icon in the North Sea, serving the first deep water development on the UKCS and to the west of Shetland.
“Foinaven was the forerunner to our major Schiehallion and Clair developments which have helped establish the west of Shetland as a key strategic hub in BP’s global portfolio.
“Retiring the long-serving FPSO is now the safest and most economical option at this point.
“It also provides an opportunity to set the fields up for safe, efficient and more sustainable oil and gas production in the future, in line with BP’s and the North Sea region’s commitment to continue delivering safe and reliable oil and gas while transitioning to a net zero integrated energy company.”
A spokeswoman for Altera, which is headquartered in Westhill, near Aberdeen, said the demobilisation was “likely” to lead to redundancies, but was unable to say how many roles might be affected.
Chris Brett, president Altera Production, said: “We are extremely proud to have played our part in opening up the west of Shetlands area to oil production back in the 1990s, of the achievement of having produced continuously on station for BP for close to 24 years, and for the dedication and stamina shown by all of our crew members having been involved with Foinaven, both onshore and offshore.
“We remain committed to the UKCS and see a number of exciting opportunities for new FPSO based developments in the future, although these will take time to mature.”
To date, 390 million barrels of oil have been recovered from the Foinaven area, with production averaging 12,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day last year.
The area comprises the Foinaven and Foinaven East fields. BP operates both, with a 72% interest in Foinaven and 43% in Foinaven East.
RockRose Energy holds a 28% stake in Foinaven and 47% of Foinaven East, where DNO is the other partner.