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Seagull soars: securing energy for today from the North Sea

Release date:
6 November 2023
Clever engineering is helping bp to access new resources under the sea and breathe new life into an existing oil and gas facility
 
🕒 4 min read | 📖 Feature| 💡 Why it matters

The mission Nicola Stevenson and Teresa Bachelet chose to accept as part of bp’s Seagull project team can be summed up in two key words: reuse and repurpose.

 

The two engineers – Nicola as project leader and Teresa the commissioning manager – were part of the team working on bp’s latest development in the North Sea.

 

From the outset, the plan to access the Seagull field’s estimated 50 million barrels of oil and gas was ambitious: connect four new wells to the 25-year-old central processing facility (CPF) of the Eastern Trough Area Project (ETAP) hub located 140 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland.


As an added challenge, the Seagull project team was tasked with making the most of equipment already in situ and serving existing oil and gas operations. 


Then, just as work on the project was ramping up, Covid-19 and the associated lockdowns hit.

‘Open heart surgery’

Seagull is located 10 miles south of the ETAP CPF, meaning the task of connecting back to the host facility was no mean feat.

 

“We know very well that when we bring a new field into an existing platform it’s hard for the two to seamlessly fit together. Our job was to make it work,” says Teresa, who helped to oversee the development. 


This was the first new field connected to the ETAP CPF in 20 years, adding to the six fields that already produce through the facility: Machar, Madoes, Mirren, Monan, Marnock and Mungo.


To make the project a reality, parts of the CPF were subject to a complete overhaul. That work took place while the other ETAP fields continued to produce, something that Nicola likened to "performing open heart surgery".

While bp was responsible for modifying the ETAP CPF to receive the new production from Seagull, Neptune Energy, a partner in the Seagull field, handled the underwater portion of the project. That included drilling of wells and the installation of an additional section of pipeline.


“The challenge on the CPF modifications was, primarily, working on a live platform,” says Nicola, who has managed bp projects around the world. “The ETAP CPF has two bridge-linked platforms, and we have worked all over them to get the facility ready to receive Seagull production.”


Teresa added that “the focus to reuse existing kit offshore, along with repurposing materials where possible, meant Seagull could be developed in a relatively short timeframe.”

A new way of working

The fact that much of the work on Seagull took place during a global pandemic added an additional layer of complexity to the project.


Teresa arrived in Aberdeen from a posting in South Korea in January 2020. Lockdown hit before she had the opportunity to get offshore to ETAP. 


“Covid changed the way we worked, but we didn’t let it stop us,” says Teresa, who has worked on projects in 12 countries over the past 20 years.


“We engineered Seagull from our homes, from our bedrooms, our offices, our living rooms. And that work was then executed offshore by teams dealing with their own challenges during the pandemic.”

When Teresa finally got offshore to ETAP in May 2022, she was impressed with how well the teams worked together. 

“To see the care and professionalism of our teams up close is inspiring,” she says. “Not just my bp colleagues, but all our partners and contractors. The strength of the North Sea supply chain community was evident.”


At the project’s peak, there were around 500 people supporting the ETAP CPF modifications, many of whom were housed on a floating hotel (flotel) chartered by bp and connected to the facility. A further 300 jobs were supported through the work delivered by Neptune Energy.


Many of those working on the project were women, something that Teresa says was unique in her experience.


“It gave me a real sense of pride to see us doing jobs that in the past were not always open to us,” she says. 

Aiming for net zero 

One of bp’s aims is to be net zero across our operations on an absolute basis by 2050 or sooner. This aim relates to our Scope 1 emissions (from running the facilities within our operational control).


The ETAP CPF currently uses gas turbines to produce power for all offshore operations and wellbeing requirements.


bp, in collaboration with other operators, is exploring opportunities to electrify installations in the central North Sea, including the ETAP CPF. 

 

Read more about bp’s sustainability aims.

Mission accomplished

Developed with joint venture partners Neptune Energy and JAPEX, Seagull began production in November 2023. 


With their work now complete, both Nicola and Teresa are moving on to pastures new. Teresa will put her skills to use at bp’s Rotterdam refinery, where she’ll be involved with lower carbon energy projects.  

 

Nicola, meanwhile, will soon be hanging up her coveralls. She joined bp in 1987 as an instrument engineer and has led projects around the world. This was her final project before retirement.   

 

“I’ll be keeping a keen eye on bp’s transition,” she says. “Getting it right is absolutely key, and projects like Seagull have a major role to play in ensuring that the world has the energy it needs today. I’m proud to have played my part in this.”

💡 Why it matters

 

bp has operated in the North Sea for almost 60 years, providing energy to the UK and farther afield.


We’re investing in oil and gas production from core regions like the UK to meet today’s energy needs.


Developments like Seagull are a good example of how we’re getting more out of our existing fields and infrastructure – safely and efficiently, while working to lower operational emissions.


At the same time, we’re investing in our five transition growth engines – bioenergy, EV charging, convenience, hydrogen and renewables & power. While we’re mostly in oil and gas today, we’ve increased global investment in our lower carbon, convenience stores and power trading businesses from around 3% in 2019 to around 30% in 2022. 

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