Major North Sea oil project to last ‘into late 2030s’

The project intially involved seven fields, four operated by BP and three by Shell, all funnelled through the central processing facility. Picture: Andy Buchanan/PA Wire
The project intially involved seven fields, four operated by BP and three by Shell, all funnelled through the central processing facility. Picture: Andy Buchanan/PA Wire
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One of the North Sea’s most complex developments will continue to produce oil and gas for another 20 years, operators have said.

The Eastern Trough Area Project (ETAP) is made up of multiple fields sharing a central processing facility.

It opened 20 years ago and is now expected to operate into the mid to late 2030s under as a “poster child” of the Oil & Gas Authority’s maximising economic recovery strategy.

At the time of exploration, the individual areas were not deemed to be commercially viable alone, so the ETAP alliance was formed to develop the fields as one joint development.

The project intially involved seven fields, four operated by BP and three by Shell, all funnelled through the central processing facility. Two further BP-operated fields came online in 2002 while two of the Shell fields have since ceased production.

Day-to-day production operations of the remaining seven ETAP fields are controlled by BP from the central processing facility, with more than 550 million barrels of oil equivalent produced over its two decades.

BP North Sea regional president Ariel Flores said: “ETAP embodies the pioneering and innovative spirit the North Sea is renowned for around the world and shows what can be achieved when companies work together for the greater good of the region.

“When the project was sanctioned in the mid-1990s, BP and our ETAP joint venture partners were applauded for our unique collaboration and high level of innovation. Here we are 20 years later, continuing to push boundaries in maximising recovery and extending field-life.

“ETAP remains a key asset in BP’s refreshed North Sea portfolio and our enduring North Sea presence.”

Dr Andy Samuel, chief executive of the Oil and Gas Authority, added: “ETAP stands out as one of the great maximising economic recovery strategy (MER UK) stories - a ‘poster child’ for MER UK, even before the concept existed.

“Most impressive has been the great leadership and collaboration from the owners, investing significantly over decades to unlock substantial value in innovative partnership with service companies.

“The area still has an exciting future, with plenty to play for and the potential for further discoveries to be tied back.”

Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Instead of desperately trying to squeeze out the last drops of North Sea oil, climate change ‘poster child’ BP should be taking a long hard look at what the consequences of its pursuit of ever more fossil fuels means for the next 20 years.

“Like its fellow oil majors, BP has known about the dangers of climate change for many years, but continued to pump oil and gas like there’s no tomorrow, putting profits before people and planet.

“We’ve already passed 1C of warming, and the climate science is clear that we absolutely have to move away from fossil fuels if we want to avoid truly catastrophic warming. That means planning a transition away from oil and gas that is fair to the workers and communities currently dependent on jobs in that sector.

“It means directing investment towards the low carbon economy and ensuring that good quality jobs are created here in Scotland as we move away from fossil fuels.”