Oil giant BP said yesterday its plans for new headquarters in Aberdeen emphasised its long-term commitment to the North Sea.
It aims to move all 950 of its staff and about 200 contract workers from its base in Farburn Industrial Estate, Dyce, to the new site - on nearby Stoneywood Road - by the end of 2007.
BP has agreed a 15-year lease for the new building, which will be constructed and owned by London-based developer Akeler. The Stoneywood Road site was already owned by BP, which has options to extend the lease beyond 2022.
Unveiling the plans yesterday, BP's director for North Sea infrastructure, Steve Peacock, said the move and long-term lease signalled the continuing importance of Aberdeen to the firm's global operations.
"We were here at the very beginning (of North Sea operations) and intend to be here for a long time yet," he added.
The deal agreed with Akeler involves the developer taking over the site of BP's present HQ.
Preparation work for the oil company's new base is expected to begin within about six weeks and construction is likely to start towards the end of the year, provided there are no delays in the planning process.
Around 300 people are expected to be involved in the construction of the new HQ.
It has been BP's intention to find new headquarters for some time. In 2002, it announced plans for a new four-storey office of almost 400,000sq ft on the Stoneywood Road site.
But that development was put on hold because of restructuring, poor business conditions and an extra 10% levy on North Sea oil and gas profits.
In May last year, it emerged that BP had resurrected its plans to build a new North Sea HQ, but instead of owning the complex, it wanted developers to come up with proposals plus stump up the cost.
BP built its first office at Dyce in 1974. Since then, the complex has been extended through the addition of a further two office blocks in 1978 and 1982.
The new premises, totalling just over 215,000sq ft, will be the headquarters of BP's exploration and production activities in the UK, Norway and the Netherlands.
Mr Peacock said the building would be cheaper to run, while giving the firm the modern, flexible, offices it now needed. He said the design would incorporate efficient energy systems that would cut emissions of carbon dioxide to half the level normally associated with a building of its size. BP is also considering using solar panels or wind turbines to provide energy for the building.
Akeler director Patrick Going said the new HQ would replace one of Aberdeen's familiar "monoliths" with striking, purpose-built and energy-efficient accommodation that was ideally suited to BP in the 21st century.
BP said new ways of working and dramatic improvements in technology, plus new opportunities in the North Sea, meant it was crucial to have an appropriate standard of office accommodation in Aberdeen. BP said it would be working closely with local authorities to ensure the flow of traffic around the new complex was not adversely impacted.
North-east SNP MSP Richard Lochhead said: "This is a good news story for Europe's energy capital and puts to bed any notion that the oil majors are losing interest in the North Sea. There is no greater long-term commitment a company can made to the north-east than building a new headquarters."
Dave Blackwood, BP's director for North Sea business, added: "We will continue to be a major employer and play an active part in the community at our Aberdeen HQ and other North Sea operational sites."
Source: The Press & Journal