Rig weighing 12,000 tonnes to be 'chiselled away to nothing' in Shetland

By Mike Grundon
BBC Scotland reporter

media captionAround 98% of the structure will be recycled

The Buchan Alpha - a redundant 12,000-tonne steel offshore oil facility - has arrived in Shetland to be chiselled away to nothing.

Working slowly towards a final decommissioning resting place, Buchan Alpha - a rusting hulk, streaming water from the deck and looking well past its sell-by date - was brought into Lerwick at the weekend by tugs.

Each of five legs has a giant float under the water.

Breaking it up will take 17 months.

Buchan Alpha began life at the dawn of the North Sea oil industry, starting out as a drilling rig in 1973.

Next up was service as a floating production vessel in the Buchan field in 1981.

Buchan Alpha was taken out of service in May by operators Repsol Sinopec Resources UK.

The Health and Safety Executive effectively said it was too old, battered and out of date.

'Quite complex'

Gary Tootill, the Buchan project manager, said Buchan Alpha was beyond upgrading.

He said: "The Buchan Alpha has been on station for around 36 years.

"It has produced something like 150 million barrels, which was three times what it was expected to produce.

"Having been there for so long, the project to remove it was quite complex."

The massive structure is being attached to a mooring pattern of anchors, for deep parts of the facility to be removed.

Buchan Alpha will then be brought alongside the newly-extended Dales Voe deepwater quay to be dismantled for recycling.

There has been relatively small-scale decommissioning work done in Lerwick over the past 10 years.

The port authority has invested heavily in attracting more such work to Shetland.

image source, Repsol Sinopec Resources UK

Sandra Laurenson, chief Executive of Lerwick Port Authority, said: "The project at Dales Voe to extend the quay has been a £12m investment.

"That is really to future-proof that area for decommissioning for the next generation of platforms to come out.

"There is probably 30 years of work to decommission all the platforms."

The Buchan Alpha work will be led by the French company Veolia, and 35 jobs will be created by the project.

It is expected about 98% of the structure will be recycled.

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