Oil rigs evacuated as Scotland expects 90mph winds

ONE OF Britain’s oil giants today evacuated all its workers from one of its main production platforms following a warning that severe storms are set to sweep across the North Sea.

Energy companies operating in parts of the North Sea began moving some staff ashore. Picture: AFP/Getty

Talisman Sinopec Energy UK confirmed at lunchtime that all 85 workers on its its Buchan Alpha platform had been flown off the installation in the British sector of the North Sea because of the deteriorating weather conditions

The downmanning of the installation, 120 miles North east of Aberdeen, was completed as the Met Office issued an amber ‘be prepared’ warning for strong winds across parts of Scotland for tonight and Thursday morning.

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A spokeswoman for the oil giant said: “Talisman Sinopec Energy UK can confirm that a planned downman of personnel from the Buchan Alpha platform began yesterday and will be completed today as a result of severe weather forecasts.

“As per the platform’s Safety Case, we are carrying out the downman in advance of the sea state exceeding the stated level later this week. Sixty-eight personnel were downmanned yesterday and the remaining 17 will fly back to Aberdeen today.”

She added: “Production will remain shut down while we continue to monitor the weather conditions. We will upman and normal operations will resume when conditions improve. The safety of all of those who work on our sites remains of paramount importance. All relevant authorities including the Health and Safety Executive and DECC have been informed.”

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said: “Talisman Sinopec Energy advised HSE earlier today that they had made the decision to down-man the Buchan Alpha. This is in line with their safety case, which HSE accepted.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said the most severe weather to hit the mainland was expected in the Highlands and northern Scotland with winds of around 80mph possible. But commuters and motorists in the central belt are also being warned to prepare for “challenging conditions.”

He said: “The winds are likely to impact on ferry services and lead to speed restrictions on some bridges. Network Rail and ScotRail are also warning of reduced services and emergency speed restrictions on some routes.

“In addition snow showers are expected to affect the north and northeast of Scotland through Thursday and Friday, most frequent across the Northern Isles, the North Highlands and northern Aberdeenshire. Icy conditions may also develop on some roads across Scotland on Thursday night and Friday morning. This is expected to be a short-lived cold snap, with temperatures quickly recovering to near normal over the weekend.”

The spokesman continued: “Transport Scotland, operating companies, local authorities, Police Scotland and the Met Office are closely monitoring the situation to prepare for the conditions and the Multi Agency Response Team will be operational for the duration of the alerts. “

Martin Thomson, Winter Resilience Manager for Transport Scotland, said: “Transport Scotland is working closely with transport operators, the Met office and Police Scotland to make sure that the most useful and up to date information is given to those who need it most. We have held a number of meetings with key partners and tonight (Weds) we will activate the Multi Agency Response team.

“Traffic Scotland are already informing the travelling public about the expected difficult conditions on Thursday morning. The Scottish Government is also monitoring the situation to assess what impact these warnings will have and stand ready to respond.

“I would also urge the travelling public to consider the conditions before they set-off on their journeys. They should listen to radio reports, visit the Traffic Scotland website or twitter feed, and carefully consider police advice.”

Graeme Forrester, a Senior Met Office Advisor, said: “We are working closely with emergency responders in Scotland, including our partners within Scottish Government and Transport Scotland, to ensure that everyone can prepare for the expected severe weather.

“We currently have an advisor sitting within the Control Centre at South Queensferry who is able to give up-to-date advice to the team in order to keep Scotland’s roads as clear and as safe as possible during this relatively short-lived period of severe weather.

“The worst of the conditions are forecast in the Highlands and northern Scotland with winds of up to 80mph possible. However, parts of the central belt will also be affected by some very strong winds during Thursday morning’s rush hour period.”

Chief Superintendent Iain Murray Head of Road Policing, Police Scotland, said: “The weather in Scotland can change very quickly and it’s vital drivers are prepared. In recent years we have seen high winds, blizzards, snow and freezing conditions. The next few days is expected to bring with it some strong winds and severe cold weather and I would advise motorists to take care. Allow extra time for your journey and a keep a few emergency supplies, such as water and food in your vehicle to cover any eventualities.”

A spokesman for ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne said: “We have had a very stormy start to the winter with many services affected by high winds in the last few weeks. The forecast for Thursday morning is looking particularly severe and we would advise ferry travellers to take this into account when planning journeys in the next few days. We are grateful for the patience and understanding of all our customers at this time.”