FPSO Haewene Brim; Source: Bluewater

Shell brings North Sea field back online, as FPSO revamp enables gas production alongside oil

UK-headquartered energy giant Shell has completed the restart of operations at a field located in the UK sector of the North Sea, after putting the finishing redevelopment touches to ensure gas will be produced along with oil.

FPSO Haewene Brim; Source: Bluewater

Shell reported on Tuesday, 18 April 2023, that it had wrapped up the restart of operations at the Pierce field in the UK Central North Sea, following a significant upgrade to allow gas to be produced after years of the field producing only oil.

The Pierce development is a joint venture between Shell companies (operator with a 92.52 per cent interest) – Enterprise Oil Limited (EOL) 42.79 per cent, Shell EP Offshore Ventures Limited (SEPOV) 39.73 per cent, Shell Upstream Overseas Services (I) Limited (SUOSL) 10 per cent – and Ithaca Energy (UK) Limited (7.48 per cent).

Zoe Yujnovich, Shell Upstream Director, remarked: “The completion of this major project is a testament to Shell’s long-standing commitment to the UK North Sea. We took this investment decision in 2019, and it is now increasing locally produced gas right at the time when this additional supply is critically important for the UK’s energy security. It’s a source of huge satisfaction when projects like Pierce come to fruition.”

According to the UK giant, “substantial modifications” were made to the Haewene Brim floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel, which is used to produce hydrocarbons at the Pierce field. In addition, a new subsea gas export line was installed, connecting to the SEGAL pipeline system, which brings gas ashore at St Fergus, north of Aberdeen.

The FPSO Haewene Brim, which is operated by Pierce Production Company Limited, a Bluewater company, stopped producing in October 2021 to enable the upgrade. The vessel spent six months in dry dock where it was transformed into a vessel that could also produce gas, which had previously been re-injected into the reservoir.

Illustration showing the Haewene Brim while offloading to a shuttle tanker; Source: Bluewater
Illustration showing the Haewene Brim while offloading to a shuttle tanker; Source: Bluewater

The oil major explains that the peak production is expected to reach 30,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, which is more than twice the production prior to the redevelopment, with more gas being produced than oil. While the oil will be transported by tanker, the gas will be sent through newly installed subsea pipelines.

Furthermore, the redevelopment of the Pierce field is consistent with the UK government’s North Sea Transition Deal and Shell’s Powering Progress strategy, providing the energy people need today while helping to fund investments in the low-carbon energy system of the future.

Located around 165 miles (265 km) east of Aberdeen, Scotland, in water depths of around 262 feet (85 m), the Pierce field was discovered in 1975, with oil being produced since 1999. The redevelopment of the field is part of Shell’s broader intent to invest £20-25 billion or over $24.8 -$31 billion in the UK energy system in the next decade, subject to board approval and a stable investment climate.

However, 75 per cent of the investment will be focused on the development of low and zero-carbon products and services. To deliver this, the UK firm underscores that projects need to remain economically viable under the recently revised UK tax regime.

Moreover, the Pierce project is one of eight investment decisions Shell took in 2018 and 2019 alone in order to sustain North Sea production, ranging from major redevelopments such as Pierce and Penguins, to tie-backs from fields such as Fram and Arran to existing platforms.

The UK player’s other recent UK projects include its plans to develop floating offshore wind in Scotland which could bring clean energy to power the equivalent of 6 million homes and the Jackdaw gas field.