Spirit Energy has handed Swiss offshore contractor Allseas a deal to remove two of its gas platforms in the East Irish Sea off the UK.

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The giant offshore construction and installation vessel Pioneering Spirit will remove both the DP3 and DP4 normally unmanned platforms from Morecambe Bay this year, northern Europe-focused Spirit said on Thursday.

Final preparations are already under way for the huge vessel to lift the two installations, each of which weighs 11,000 tonnes. This is far less than the lifting capacity of the Pioneering Spirit, which can lift topsides weighing 48,000 tonnes.

The 12 wells that are connected to the two platforms have already been plugged and abandoned using a slant rig to, Spirit said, “accommodate the angle at which the wells were drilled in the 1980s to access the gas reservoir below the seabed”.

Pioneering Spirit: giant Allseas vessel at work Photo: ALLSEAS

Spirit Energy project manager Donald Martin said: “After two years of preparing the DP3 and DP4 installations for removal, we’re now looking forward to one of the most significant milestones in the project with the removal of both platforms.

“Seeing the Pioneering Spirit in the East Irish Sea will be an impressive sight — its capacity and single-lift methodology made it a good fit to safely execute this project.”

Both the DP3 and DP4 units first produced gas in 1985 when the South Morecambe field came online.

Once they are decommissioned, output will continue from the Central Morecambe, North Morecambe, DP6 and DP8 platforms.

Spirit said in February 2019 that it was intending to decommission the DP3 and DP4 facilities. The two platforms — part of the eight-platform complex at Morecambe Bay — have become redundant as the field has matured, with the reserves they once tapped into now being produced by the nearby South Morecambe platform.

More than 95% of the steel and other materials from the DP3 and DP4 is set to be recycled ashore.