Grangemouth refinery operator Ineos said it expects to complete the repair of its crucial North Sea Forties Pipeline “around Christmas” and “bring the pipeline progressively back to normal rates early in the new year.”
Ineos said on December 11 it shut down its Forties Pipeline System, which delivers almost 40% of the UK’s North Sea oil and gas output, to repair a crack in the pipe just south of Aberdeen.
A few days later Ineos declared “force majeure” on all shipments of crude oil, natural gas and condensates through the Forties system that has shut off vital energy supplies to the UK.
Force majeure, which suspends a company’s contractual obligations in the wake of situations that lie beyond its control, is rare in the North Sea.
Trade body Oil & Gas UK said the shutdown of the Forties system caused “significant issues” for the industry and that lost production is worth around £20 million per day.
In a statement, Ineos said: “Ineos continues to make steady progress towards the safe repair of the Forties Pipeline.
“Continued monitoring and assessment confirms that the hairline crack has remained stable since the flow of oil and gas was stopped through the pipe on Monday 11th December.
“Work on the pipeline is progressing well and based on current estimates Ineos is planning to complete the repair around Christmas.
“As work on the pipeline continues INEOS has initiated the planning phase necessary to begin recommissioning the system, including the Kinneil facility, as soon as the pipeline repair is complete.
“Initially a small number of customers will send oil and gas through the pipeline at low rates as part of a coordinated plan that allows Ineos to carefully control the flow into the system.
“Ineos will complete this work as quickly as possible but safety is the highest priority.
“Based on current estimates the company expects to bring the pipeline progressively back to normal rates early in the new year.
“Ineos continues to work with the Emergency Services, relevant authorities and regulators as it implements the code compliant repairs on the FPS pipeline.
“As long as work continues at Red Moss, the precautionary safety cordon will remain at 150m.
“The unclassified CK12 Netherley to Cookney road, which passes close to the site remains closed by the police and all non-essential drivers are being requested to seek alternative routes to ensure that the road remains clear for essential works.
“We apologise to our customers and the local community for the issues that this creates and we are working hard to minimise the impact of the pipeline closure as far as possible.”