Yme firewall check 'fateful' for facility

Blighted: the Yme platform

Talisman Energy is reported to be facing a critical week for its troubled Yme project as checks on the blighted platform’s firewalls could determine whether the facility is fit for use on the field.  

The tests being carried out by Norwegian research institute Sintef are another nail-biter for the Canadian operator, adding to a litany of technical problems, delays and massive cost overruns, as well as possible litigation from partners, that threaten to torpedo the field’s mobile production unit.

“Sintef is carrying out a test of the firewalls between the process deck and the platform’s hull at its Trondheim laboratory as part of our examination of the platform. This is one of many examinations we are carrying out,” Talisman’s Norway spokesman Andreas Middlethon told Teknisk Ukeblad.

He would not be drawn on the implications for the operator if the test results prove negative, although the publication said it understands there is such a high degree of uncertainty over the firewall issue that it could risk the platform being scrapped.

Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority would not allow production from the platform to start unless all fire protection systems were in order.

Some of the 400 workers carrying out remedial work on the facility were this month due to move into living quarters on the platform as the jack-up Rowan Stavanger – one of two accommodation units, as well as the flotel Regalia, deployed alongside – is set to be moved, according to the report.

However, the publication claims firewalls are in such poor condition, with holes everywhere, that it makes the platform virtually uninhabitable.

It has earlier cited an anonymous letter to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, from a source apparently with insight on the platform’s technical problems, that highlighted issues such as weak plastic safety railings on the helicopter deck and a leaking ventilation system in the facility’s accommodation module.

“As a professional worker, I believe much of the installation is life-threatening and a direct threat to safety,” the writer stated, adding some of the fastenings omboard “would not have been approved for a Norwegian kindergarten”.

“The list of defects and failings is enormous, and the work is being carried out in all directions without any structure,” the letter added.

The writer said the platform should just be scrapped.

Costs on the project, now more than three years delayed, have ballooned from an original budget of Nkr4.8 billion ($835 million) to Nkr9.6 billion by last autumn, and are now reported to be around Nkr12 billion.

Talisman has said the platform is set to remain offline for the rest of this year and does not see production starting before 2013, slipping from an earlier targeted start-up date in the second quarter.

A series of defects have been uncovered on the facility after its delivery from an Abu Dhabi yard by SBM Offshore for final completion at the Bergen Group Rosenberg yard in Stavanger, including inadequate welds and a problem known as ‘ringing’, or vibrations, that could affect the structural integrity of the facility in high waves.

The problems have triggered a war of words between Talisman and SBM, with each pointing the finger at the other, while there is reported to be mounting frustration among the licence partnership over the ongoing issues.

One of the licence partners, Lotos, was recently said by the publication to be considering a lawsuit against Talisman to cover its share of increased costs and lost income as a result of the delay.

There could also be further litigation afoot, both from other licensees and between the operator and contractor.

Yme lies in Production Licence 316 in the southern part of Norway’s North Sea. Operator Talisman holds a 60% interest and Polish player Lotos 20%, while AEDC and Wintershall have 10% each.

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