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Hebrides News


Repsol Sinopec  

The North Sea rig at the centre of Stornoway’s oil boom heyday is being withdrawn from service.

Always known as the Drillmaster to islanders - the former BP rig, Buchan Alpha, will pump her last drop of oil next month, some 37 years after being converted from a drilling unit at Arnish.

The pentagon shaped semi-submersible has been working in the same field in the North Sea, some 96 miles east of Aberdeen, since leaving the island.

The five-legged floater arrived at the Arnish yard in October 1978 to convert her into a production rig.

The job for BP was vastly more complex than initially anticipated, increasing costs and creating delays.

Hundreds of people found employment at the yard - then operated by Lewis Offshore, a Fred Olson owned company.

The shallow drafted platform was anchored in Glumaig Harbour during the conversion.

Numerous workers came from the central belt and the north of England.

Chartered planes regularly flew work crews to Stornoway and an accommodation ship was tied up at the quay at Arnish to house personnel.  

The Drillmaster departed as the Buchan Alpha in September 1980 - a year later than originally scheduled.

She was of the same design to the Alexander L. Kielland which capsized in the Ekofisk oil field in the Norwegian sector, about 200 miles of the east coast of Scotland.

Some 123 people died in the disaster in March 1980 which was caused by cracks in a leg and failed bracings.  

Another sister rig was deployed off Ireland but was recently laid up in Scotland.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) previously expressed concerns about the inspection programme over the structural integrity of the rig.

The Drillmaster’s present owners, Repsol Sinopec, said oil production will stop in April and the rig permanently removed by autumn.

There is no immediate threat or safety risk to the platform, said the company.


End of the line for Stornoway’s flagship oil rig

2 March 2017