North Sea’s Pierce Field Shuttered After FPSO Mooring Issue Discovered

The Haewene Brim FPSO will need repairs to a pair of mooring connections before it can restart operations. Bluewater Energy Service’s Haewene Brim FPSO, which is under contract to serve Shell’s Pierce field redevelopment in the North Sea, has been taken offline due to issues with the mooring system. Production has been shut in since late August. Bluewater operates the FPSO via its UK subsidiary Pierce Production Company Ltd. Inspectors visited the vessel in both August and September and found the operator could not show it had acceptable systems in place to maintain the integrity of the vessel’s mooring systems.

“Bluewater closed in production on the Haewene Brim FPSO after we discovered the connection of two mooring lines to the mooring buoy were impaired,” Jesse van de Korput, vice president, floating production, told JPT in an email. “UK HSE (Health and Safety Executive) was informed of the situation.” The agency followed up with an Improvement Notice that outlined a series of failures around inspections and integrity management of the vessel’s mooring lines and warned of “a serious risk of (the) FPSO losing position.” “Remedial measures have been taken, and a diving campaign is underway to repair subject connections,” added van de Korput.

The company has until 29 March 2024 to address the issues. Shell UK completed the restart of operations at the Pierce field in the UK Central North Sea in April 2023, following a significant upgrade to allow gas to be produced after years of the field producing only oil. Substantial modifications were made to the Haewene Brim FPSO itself and a new subsea gas export line was also installed, connecting to the SEGAL pipeline system, which brings gas ashore at St Fergus, north of Aberdeen.

“The completion of this major project is testament to Shell’s longstanding commitment to the UK North Sea,” Shell Upstream Director Zoe Yujnovich said at the time of the restart. “We took this investment decision in 2019, and it is now increasing locally produced gas right at the time when this additional supply is critically important for the UK’s energy security. It’s a source of huge satisfaction when projects like Pierce come to fruition.”

The FPSO stopped producing in October 2021 and spent 6 months in dry dock where it was converted into a vessel that could also produce gas, which had previously been reinjected into the reservoir. Peak production is expected to reach 30,000 BOE/D, which is more than twice the production prior to the redevelopment, with more gas being produced than oil. Shell operates the Pierce field with a 92.52% working interest. Partner Ithaca Energy (UK) Ltd. holds the remaining 7.48% stake.

The field was originally discovered in 1975 and initially came online in 1999. It lies around 265 km east of Aberdeen in water depths of around 85 m. The redevelopment of the field is part of Shell UK’s broader intent to invest up to $30 billion in the UK energy system in the next decade, subject to board approval and a stable investment climate, 75% of which will be focused on the development of low- and zero-carbon products and services.

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