12 November 2004
The £300million Goldeneye gas development highlights energy giant Shell's continuing interest and investment in the North Sea, according to one of the company's bosses.
Tom Botts, chief executive of Shell Exploration and Production (E &P) in Europe, said yesterday that the project heralded a new phase in the company's long-term commitment to the area.
He was speaking at a gathering to mark the recent start of gas production from Goldeneye.
The Princess Royal was guest of honour at the event, held at the energy giant's St Fergus gas plant.
Mr Botts said: "Goldeneye is a good example of what the future holds in store as we go after smaller and technically more difficult volumes in the North Sea. It will require more creativity than ever before.
"We are continuing to explore across north-west Europe and invest in and look for development opportunities."
He added: "I want to explode this myth that Shell is not interested in the North Sea.
"There will be opportunities to develop smaller volumes and link them to existing infrastructure."
Kieron McFadyen, technical director of Shell E &P, said the North Sea continued to be a core area for the company.
Shell's future focus would be on its existing assets and near-field exploration but also any new opportunities in deeper waters farther north than current developments, he added.
And he said Goldeneye would help Shell UK to match demand in a market "hungry for gas".
Goldeneye is a joint venture between Shell UK, Esso, Paladin Resources and Centrica.
It came on stream on October 18 and is already producing 3% of the UK's gas supply - 300million cubic feet a day - from an area once deemed uneconomic to develop.
The development comprises a new production platform 105km offshore in the South Halibut basin area of the outer Moray Firth and a transit pipeline as long as the distance between Aberdeen and Dundee.
Special facilities were built at St Fergus to process the gas produced by Goldeneye, while condensates from the well are transferred through another pipeline to Shell's gas liquids plant at Mossmorran in Fife.
Goldeneye created a UK first for production drilling; at 400ft its jack-up rig is working in three times the depth of the southern North Sea in a field that is as large as Aberdeen.
The pipeline is also the longest of its kind in the UK.
The production platform will operate unmanned within a few months but Goldeneye is expected to secure several thousand Scottish oil and gas jobs.
Mr Bott said: "The Goldeneye venture is a great engineering achievement. It really is a piece of technical mastery."
Among the guests at yesterday's event was SNP leader and Banff and Buchan MP Alex Salmond who said: "This project has enormous strategic importance and will underpin the future of both St Fergus and Mossmorran for a generation, securing thousands of key jobs."
The companies involved in Goldeneye sponsor an engineering training course at Banff and Buchan College of Further Education, in Fraserburgh. It is hoped the skills gained by the students will create many new recruits for the offshore sector.
Oil prices fell sharply yesterday, unwinding the gains of the previous day, as rising crude stocks eased concerns over winter fuel supplies. US light crude slid 1.44 to 47.42 a barrel, while Brent crude in London shed 1.73 to 43.02.
Source: The Press & Journal