EnQuest revealed an industry-first offshore asset maintenance partnership in the North Sea with two specialist supply chain companies during a visit by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury at Offshore Europe.

As part of EnQuest’s late life extension (LLX) programme on its Thistle platform, the operator has joined forces with engineering experts Pyeroy Group, a division of Wood Group PSN, and its sub-contractor – engineered composite repair specialists Walker Technical Resources to deliver a significant part of the topsides integrity work.

Pyeroy and Walker Technical Resources have developed a safer, more efficient and cost-effective solution to ensure the long-term integrity of mature assets which is being implemented on the Thistle field.

Using proven composite repair technology, they will refurbish all four of the Thistle platform’s stair towers which span the 50 metre height of the installation. The technology, which applies and moulds carbon fibre composite material and an epoxy resin to steel structures to make them fit for service, is an industry game changer because unlike conventional methods it does not involve welding, known in the industry as “hot” work.

In addition, the lightweight composite material doesn’t add any significant weight to the platform topsides. The composite repair will not corrode, and also prevents further corrosion of the underlying steelwork, while its defined lifespan of 20 years means maintenance is kept to a minimum. .

While the technology has also been used offshore by Walker Technical Resources, this is the first time it has been used in the North Sea on such a scale that a specialist team has been created to manage the project.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Sajid Javid, took time out of his visit to Offshore Europe in Aberdeen to meet with EnQuest – the largest independent UK oil producer in the UK North Sea – along with Pyeroy and Walker Technical Resources. He visited Walker Technical Resources’ operations base in Aberdeen’s Bridge of Don where both supply chain companies demonstrated the technology that will be used on the Thistle stair tower refurbishment.

Mr Javid said: ““The government is committed to supporting investment in the oil and gas industry, a vital sector that provides jobs and growth across the United Kingdom. The Government’s introduction of new and extended field allowances, and provision of increased certainty over decommissioning relief has resulted in greater investment in the North Sea.

“I’m particularly pleased to have had the opportunity today to see how the government’s award of a brownfield tax allowance to EnQuest has led to investment, innovation and jobs here in Aberdeen.”

The award of a brownfield tax allowance (BTA) to EnQuest in February and the company’s further investment of £169million to fully exploit the Thistle field safeguarded almost 500 existing North Sea jobs and will see almost 1,000 new jobs created across Aberdeen, Newcastle, Manchester and Swansea over the next three years.

EnQuest’s managing director for the UKCS, David Heslop, said: “The enterprising team partnership approach with Pyeroy and Walker Technical Resources epitomises how EnQuest’s LLX strategy to develop sustainable growth through the exploitation of mature fields is underpinned by innovation and technical expertise.

“The partnership, which is believed to be the first composite repair and maintenance team of its kind for upstream oil and gas in the North Sea, is a great example of two smaller, specialist, UK companies working together to maximise business development opportunities in the UK and overseas. In fact, as a result of EnQuest’s LLX project and other companies now looking at late life extension opportunities, Walker is currently recruiting to support growth both in the UK and internationally.”

Mr Heslop added: “The BTA allowance has also been fundamental to enabling EnQuest to fully exploit Thistle, realising reserves of 35 MMboe and extending field life. As a result, considerable supply chain opportunities have been created which is critical to underpinning the future prosperity of the energy industry, including job security and long-term career prospects.”

John Welsh, Divisional Director Offshore UKCS at Pyeroy Group, said: “We are delighted to be supporting EnQuest in this important element of their Thistle Late Life Extension project. Investing in mature assets is breathing new life into the North Sea, which is having a positive impact across the supply chain, not just in Aberdeen but throughout the United Kingdom.”

Roger Esson at Walker Technical Services, said: “There has been much discussion on how collaboration on technology will help the UK access remaining North Sea reserves and we are delighted that our specialist engineered composite repair solutions will play a part in extending the life of producing assets like Thistle and therefore maximise recovery. We continue to collaborate with operators and supply chain partners to develop new and innovative engineered solutions here in the UK, such as our new Structural Deck Rehabilitation product that we have launched at Offshore Europe this week.”

Earlier this year, EnQuest became one of the first oil and gas operators to secure a BTA which is one of a series of measures the Government has put in place to stimulate long-term investment in the North Sea.

The BTA award meant EnQuest could sanction the next phase of work on the Thistle field, which is situated about 125 miles north east of Sumburgh in the Shetland Isles. The focus of this phase is a technology-led work programme which will simplify and streamline processes to create a reliable production environment and includes a major power upgrade featuring the installation of a 30MW power generation turbine, a new process control safety system, and wide-ranging topsides integrity work.

Earlier this year, EnQuest also marked a new North Sea safety milestone on the Thistle field after recording six years free of lost time incidents (LTIs) on its drilling operations. The achievement covered a period of major operational activity which saw EnQuest bring Thistle drilling back online to drill its first new wells in 20 years.

More than 1,202,000 man hours were worked during six years without an LTI which is a significant achievement particularly given the challenges of both reactivating the drilling rig and operating a mature asset.