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BP details Miller decommissioning

Aided by new technology and the platform’s original design, removal of the topsides on BP’s Miller platform will be completed in about four weeks once work gets under way later this year.

Speaking on the sidelines after a UK North Sea decommissioning panel at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston earlier this month, BP’s vice president of decommissioning Win Thornton said the company settled on dismantling the Miller installation offshore after considering other decommissioning options, such as the recent single-lift topside removal of Shell’s Brent D topsides.

“It’s actually a reverse installation,” Thornton said of the procedure, which will likely be carried out later this year.

BP announced contracts last year with Petrofac, for late-life management of Miller, and Saipem, which will carry out decommissioning of the 28,000-tonne topsides and 17,000-tonne jacket using the offshore construction vessel Saipem 7000.

The topsides removal will be eased by the original design of the platform, which came on stream in 1992.

“It was constructed in about a dozen large modules. All the lifting points are still intact, so we will basically take it apart the way it was put in,” Thornton said.

“It was an efficient design at the time, maybe with decommissioning in mind, maybe not. But it’s going to make our decommissioning job a bit easier.”

For contrast, Thornton pointed to the 20,000-tonne North West Hutton topsides removal in 2008, which required 22 heavy lifts.

“If you look at North West Hutton, it was 90 days to remove the topsides. We can do this one in about 30 days,” he said.

Miller production ceased in 2007 but the platform had a second life as a base for the Jigsaw helicopter search and response service until last year.

Some 10% of the UK North Sea’s infrastructure has been removed and 55 decommissioning programmes are in the works, said Wendy Kennedy, chief executive of the UK Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment & Decommissioning (OPRED).

The Miller decommissioning follows close on the high-profile Brent D operation in which the 24,500-tonne topsides were lifted and carried to shore in one piece with Allseas’ newbuild vessel Pioneering Spirit.

Thornton declined to identify the company’s next installations to be removed but noted guidelines that require operators to notify the UK Oil & Gas Authority seven years before a field is expected to cease production.

“We’re starting to talk to them about the next projects,” he said.

“We’re looking at our portfolio. We’ve got a couple that we’re beginning some initial FEED engineering work on, and as we progress that, balance against production and estimates of (cessation of production) dates, we’ll be progressing those to 2020 and beyond.”