Glen Lyon Weather Window

by Tom Morton -

Shetland’s spell of fine weather in May and June has seen a rush to the peat hill for early fuel foraging, and a desperate slapping on of sun cream as the ultra violet light frazzles those pale northern skins.

Insomnia, too, is a problem at this time of year, as what for some is the curse of the ‘simmer dim’ grips with a midnight sun bringing sleeplessness or ridiculously early rising. Out in the Atlantic, though, for BP, it has been an ideal summer for positioning the future.

This particular technological aspect of the future is called Glen Lyon, and she is an FPSO, or Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading vessel. Built in Korea, she has, over the past few months, gradually made her way to her place of work, known as Quad 204 on the Schiehallion Field, 175 km west of Shetland and 15 km north of the nearby Foinaven field. Both Foinaven and Schiehallion are operated by BP.

Glen Lyon is huge: 270m in length, 52m wide, she has a storage capacity of 800,000 barrels of oil and the processing plant can handle up to 130,000 barrels of oil and 220 million cubic feet of gas per day.

The ‘weather window’ - actually, not so much a window as an entire conservatory - has allowed Glen Lyon’s positioning with a degree of ease rare in this sector of oil and gas exploration and production.

From a Shetland point of view, the existence of Glen Lyon may provoke a degree of negativity. The fact that BP has installed what amounts to a floating oil and gas terminal out in the Atlantic means that tankers will no longer have to bring oil ashore to Sullom Voe for processing before onward shipment. Instead, they can pick up their cargoes offshore, and head directly to their destinations.

However, this £3bn refurbishment of Schiehallion and its associated Atlantic fields has had many positive spin-off effects for Shetland’s oil and gas infrastructure, with local companies involved all along the way, and Lerwick Port crucial to the whole operation.

Schiehallion and its neighbouring Loyal Field has produced around 400 million barrels of oil since it began operating in 1998, and there is an estimated 450 million barrels to come, with new fields nearby developing all the time, and an estimated 35 years of life left in the area.

So with gloom surrounding much of Scotland’s hydrocarbon industry due to the low oil price, it is significant that for BP, there is still optimism about the future, and a future very much centred on Shetland. This despite the final announcement that the mooted gas sweetening plant at Sullom Voe will definitely not now go ahead.

But for BP’s North Sea president, speaking to Aberdeen Journals’ Energy Voice on 3 June, the future, not just the weather, is bright:

“We are looking towards the future,” he said, “particularly in the west of Shetland, and we see that as a growth opportunity. When was the last time you ever heard someone talk about the North Sea as a growth opportunity? And that’s what we’re looking at. West of Shetland is a place we want to invest and be in for the next three or four decades. In this environment people say, ‘Really can you look that far ahead?’ And in this environment, absolutely we can.”

So as Glen Lyon is nudged into position and the summer light at last begins to fade, at a time when pessimism is the order of the day and night in the world of Scottish offshore activity, it’s good to see some positivity from BP, and investment in technology and human resources to match.

When was the last time you heard someone talk about the North Sea as a growth opportunity?

Posted in: Oil and Gas