New Piper oil platform all set to begin production

ALMOST five years after a disastrous fire cost 167 lives on the Piper A oil platform in the North Sea, a new rig is this week expected to restart production.

Piper B cost pounds 1.5bn to build and is the first of a new generation with additional safety features recommended by the Cullen report on the disaster.

Production from the new 50,000-ton rig was due to begin late last year, but was held up due to last-minute commissioning hitches and severe weather.

Barring further delays, it is likely to begin pumping crude oil within days, Elf Enterprise, the operator, said yesterday,

The platform, about 120 miles off Wick, will tap into the Piper and two satellite fields, Saltire and Chanter.

At peak, the platform is expected to produce 130,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, about 6 per cent of UK output.

The Piper field's remaining recoverable reserves are estimated at 185 million barrels, while Saltire's are put at 170 million and Chanter's at 16 million barrels.

Oil from the platform will be transported via pipeline to the Flotta terminal in the Orkney Islands, while gas will be landed at the St Fergus terminal.

Situated about a mile from its ill-fated predecessor, Piper B is the first British platform to incorporate free-fall lifeboats and a system of 'safe refuges' enabling workers to escape in rafts without exposure to the elements.

Its safety features include an accommodation section built as far away as possible from the work area, and emergency shutdown valves installed on pipelines at seabed and platform levels to cut off the flow of oil and gas.

Elf Enterprise, an Anglo- French joint venture, owns a 36.5 per cent stake in the three fields. Lasmo and Union Texas each hold a fifth and Texaco the balance.

(Photograph omitted)

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