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The PS2.4bn supership that's big enough to lift an oil rig; Shell unveil how gigantic vessel will be used to break up platforms.


IT'S the world's largest construction ship and has been specially built for a jaw-dropping PS2.4billion - to carry out a 10-second job.

The 1253ft long and 407ft wide twin-hulled Pioneering Spirit will be used to begin the break-up of decommissioned platforms in the Brent oil and gas field, 116 miles north-east of Shetland.

Like a gigantic forklift, it will raise and remove the topside - - the part of the platform housing the accommodation block, helipad, as well as drilling and other operational areas - of the first of them, the Delta, in a matter of weeks.

The top part of the platform weighs 24,200 tons - the same as 2000 double-decker buses.

It has a "footprint" of 236ft by 154ft and the main structure is 433ft to the top of the flare - nearly as high as the London Eye.

Decommissioning the field is a massive infrastructure project and is being monitored closely by the industry, because it is the biggest North Sea field to be dismantled so far with hundreds more to follow.

It is also being closely watched by environmental groups, who have already expressed concerns about Shell's planning process.

The oil giants believe "slicing off " the topsides in one piece and carrying them clean off their legs - a lift which will take just 10 seconds - is the safest way to remove the platforms.

Shell's head of Brent field decommissioning Duncan Manning said: "We are in the final weeks of preparation for this hugely capable vessel to leave Rotterdam, sail up to the northern North Sea and then conduct the 24,000-ton plus lift of the Brent Delta topside.

"The combination of many years of hard work and planning will come to a climax in a few weeks."

Discovered in 1971, Brent was one of the most significant oil and gas finds made in the UK sector of the North Sea.

Served by four huge platforms - Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta - the field has been responsible for about 10 per cent of total North Sea production over the past four decades.

At its peak, the four rigs were pumping 500,000 barrels of oil out of 154 seabed wells every day.

Since 1976, the Brent platforms have produced more than three billion barrels of oil and contributed more than PS20billion to the UK economy.

Delta ceased production in December 2011, Alpha and Bravo in November 2014 and Charlie is expected to follow suit within the next few years.

Once the topsides are cut free of the rig legs, the platforms will be transferred to Teesside, where they will be scrapped in a custom-built yard near Hartlepool.

It is estimated that more than 97 per cent of the material will be recycled.

Ship is same length as six jumbo jets laid end to end The weight it will lift is like 2000 double decker buses


Specialist ship Pioneering Spirit positions itself around the huge oil platform

Hydraulic clamps secure the platform's legs. A motion compensation system alleviates action of waves.

Water pumped out of ship's ballast tank makes the vessel rise in the water, lifting the topside of the platform

MASSIVE TASK Pioneering Spirit dwarfs rig, main and top. Above, Brent Bravo

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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 13, 2017
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