Pioneering Spirit bringing the Ninian Northern topside to Lerwick; Image: Rory Gillies/Shetland Flyer Aerial Media Allseas decommissioning

GALLERY: Pioneering Spirit brings Ninian Northern topside for decommissioning

Allseas’ giant heavy lift vessel Pioneering Spirit has delivered the 14,200 tonne Ninian Northern platform topside to the Lerwick port in Scotland for decommissioning.

Pioneering Spirit bringing the Ninian Northern topside to Lerwick; Image: Rory Gillies/Shetland Flyer Aerial Media
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The Lerwick Port Authority said that the Ninian Northern platform arrived on Friday, 28 August 2020, and that it was the largest offshore structure to be decommissioned at the port.

The arrival of the platform marks the inauguration of a new, heavy-duty decommissioning pad at Dales Voe Base where the facility has been developed by the Lerwick Port Authority, expanding the capability to keep UK sector decommissioning projects in the UK.

The Pioneering Spirit, deemed the largest and most sophisticated construction vessel in the world, removed the topside in a single lift and transported it to Lerwick which was the vessels first arrival into a UK port.

The Ninian oilfield is located around 100 miles (88 nautical miles) north-east of Shetland.

It is worth noting that the transfer by Allseas’ cargo barge Iron Lady to the decommissioning pad is the first complete northern North Sea topside load-in at Lerwick. Dismantling by Veolia-Peterson, with a 97 per cent recycling target, will create and sustain jobs and investment in the local economy.

Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive Calum Grains said: “The arrival of the Ninian Northern topside at our Dales Voe Base is a welcome boost to activity in Shetland amidst the COVID-19 downturn and another very important stage in the development of Lerwick’s reputation as an active, leading centre for decommissioning.

The pad is a significant addition to our unique quayside infrastructure, not only as a catalyst for handling larger offshore structures but also in attracting the interest of the renewables sector for future projects, particularly floating offshore wind developments.

The scale of the topside, the single-lift delivery and the infrastructure already in place adds weight to the widely-accepted case for Lerwick to be the location of an ultra-deepwater quay in the UK for even bigger projects in the competitive international decommissioning and renewables industries“.

The Port Authority’s vision for the future to allow bigger, deeper-draft vessels to berth, includes further dredging at Dales Voe to complement the planned ultra-deepwater quay.

Investment by the Port Authority has been backed by the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and the Bank of Scotland which have provided financial assistance for the quay development at the base, as well as the decommissioning pad.

Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “The arrival of the Ninian Northern topside in Shetland is further evidence of the strength of Scotland’s decommissioning supply chain and the capabilities, knowledge and skills held within the industry.

I am delighted to see how recent investment at Dales Voe by the Scottish Government has been used by Lerwick Port Authority and its partners to increase the decommissioning potential of the port and help secure major decommissioning projects.

Looking forward, the Scottish Government remains committed to establishing an ultra-deepwater port at Dales Voe to unlock even more opportunities for decommissioning of top-sides and other oil and gas infrastructure by allowing the site to accommodate the largest heavy lift vessels currently in operation in the North Sea.

This allows projects that currently cannot be decommissioned in Scotland, due to the lack of a deepwater facility, to be retained here for dismantling in Shetland or for partnerships to allow the dismantling of some modules at other decommissioning facilities across Scotland”.

Audrey MacIver, director of energy and low carbon for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, added: “The foresight and commitment by Lerwick Port Authority to invest in critical infrastructure continues to bring benefits to Shetland and the wider Scottish supply chain. This latest arrival is particularly timely given current challenges being faced by the oil and gas industry and the associated supply chain.

Building on existing strengths and expertise, Dales Voe is firmly establishing itself as a key UK facility for serial, large scale offshore decommissioning, ensuring Shetland continues to play an ever-increasing role in the country’s energy transition“.

The decommissioning pad, designed and project-managed by Arch Henderson and constructed by local company Tulloch Developments has an impermeable surface and a 60 tonne per square metre load which matches the quayside capacity. Unique to the quayside design is an 800 tonne per metre line loading for transfer of the topsides from the barge across the quayside.

As for the vessel which delivered the topside, the twin-hulled Pioneering Spirit is 382 metres long and 124 metres wide.

A bow slot, 122 metres long and 59 metres wide, enables her to move around a platform and lift and transport entire topsides using eight sets of horizontal lifting beams.

A 5,000-tonne special-purpose crane is used for lifts, such as lighter topsides. The Pioneering Spirit also undertakes jacket removal and installation as well as pipelaying.

Recently, the Pioneering Spirit has been used in the removal of the Tyra East and Tyra West integrated processing and accommodation platforms as well as the single-lift removal of Shell’s Brent Alpha platform.

All images by Rory Gillies/Shetland Flyer Aerial Media