Work starts for biggest North Sea field in decade

Maersk Oil said on Thursday that fabrication of the billion dollar “topsides” for platforms on its $4.5 billion UK North Sea megaproject Culzean has begun.

The Culzean field — 145 miles east of Aberdeen — is the largest hydrocarbon discovery in the UK North Sea for over a decade.

The steel-cutting ceremony for the first of the three topsides modules took place at the Sembcorp Marine Offshore Platforms (SMOP) Admiralty Yard in Singapore on Thursday.

Discovered in 2008 by Maersk Oil and its partners, the field has resources estimated at 250-300 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Maersk Oil-operated Culzean is expected to support an estimated 6,000 UK jobs and create more than 400 direct jobs.

Production is expected to start in 2019 and continue for at least 13 years, with “plateau production” of 60,000-90,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

The Culzean development benefited from the HPHT (high pressure, high temperature) Cluster Area Allowance introduced by the UK Government as part of the 2015 Budget.

The allowance supports the development of such high pressure, high temperature projects, which often have higher capital costs, and encourages activity in the surrounding area or “cluster.”

The project was sanctioned in August 2015 and Maersk Oil’s partners in Culzean are JX Nippon Exploration & Production (UK) Limited with 34.01% and BP (Britoil) with 16%.

“Starting the fabrication of the topsides is an important milestone,” said Maersk Oil chief executive Jakob Thomasen.

“When the field begins to produce in 2019, Culzean will become a key contributor to Maersk Oil’s ambition to become a Top 5 operator in the North Sea in the 2020s, and provide around 5% of UK gas demand at peak production.

“Maersk Oil and coventurers’ investment will also support employment in both the UK and Asian supply chains.

“Our focus for the next three years is working with our partners and suppliers to deliver the project from fabrication right through to commissioning safely, on time and within budget.”

Martin Urquhart, Culzean Project Director, said: “We will be harnessing technology to develop a 21st century facility with the ability to remotely monitor critical equipment 24 hours a day, and enable offshore colleagues to access real time data and immediate technical evaluation and onshore support.

“The technology will minimise time spent on plant and enhance safety and efficiency. Maersk Oil estimates this digital toolkit can save more than $10 million annually.”