‘Serious problem’ at Thistle platform, RMT says after workers evacuated

Following the evacuation of 151 workers from EnQuest’s Thistle platform in the North Sea on Monday, Britain’s workers’ union RMT has said the speed of evacuation suggested a serious problem.

Thistle platform, Image by RMT
Thistle platform, Image by RMT

As previously reported, EnQuest on Monday evacuated Thistle workers to the nearby Dunlin platform, as a precaution following a subsea structural inspection. The Thistle platform is located 125 miles northeast of Shetland, UK.

Commenting on the Thistle evacuation RMT union’s general secretary Mick Cash said: “This is an unprecedented event and the speed with which the installation was evacuated suggests there is a serious problem. RMT has had concerns for some time about the impact of cost-cutting and we would hope the HSE will seek to establish whether a robust inspection regime existed and if not, why not?

“The sudden decision to evacuate would indicate that any inspection regime which did exist failed to identify an issue until it became critical. We hope this event can be used as a learning exercise for the industry as there are a number of steel jacket installations of a comparable age to Thistle still operating in the North Sea.

“For the workers, their families and all affected by these events we need to know what is being done to remedy the problem and what the future holds for the workforce. We expect all workers to remain on full pay and for extensive consultations to commence on what has happened.”

EnQuest on Tuesday said that the evacuated workers were safe and well and were in the process of being flown onshore. In an update on Tuesday, EnQuest said the precautionary evacuation followed an inspection relating to a support element on a redundant subsea storage tank.

“Further inspection work will be conducted and the platform will remain shutdown until that has concluded and any necessary remedial action undertaken,” Bob Davenport, Managing Director, North Sea at EnQuest said Tuesday.

The Thistle platform is a fixed, 60 slot drilling and production installation, comprising of a conventional steel jacket with four main legs, supporting 36 modules arranged on 3 deck levels.

Of these modules, 28 contain the equipment and machinery, which constitute the production, utilities, drilling systems, and facilities. The remaining 8 modules situated on the southeast end of the installation contain living quarters (LQ), offices, the central control room (CCR), the helideck and workshops. The platform was installed on the jacket in 1978.

Oil is imported from the Dons field via an 8” pipeline, and combined with the oil produced by the Thistle platform. The combined oil production is exported from the Thistle platform in a 16” oil export pipeline through the Ninian Pipeline System via the Dunlin and Cormorant platforms to the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal.

Gas is imported from the Northern Leg Gas Pipeline (NLGP) system. A portion of the imported gas is used as fuel gas to provide the Thistle installation power, with the remainder exported to the Northern Producer floating production facility.

Offshore Energy Today Staff