We’re going to need a bigger boat: navigating a safe, offshore turnaround

The Pioneering Spirit, the world’s largest heavy lift vessel measuring over three football fields long, safely installs the 516-ton phase two module for the Buzzard project.

Our Suncor teams are well versed in completing planned maintenance or “turnarounds,” but they become more challenging when the asset is located in the middle of the North Sea. 

Earlier this spring and summer, our Suncor team on the joint venture asset, Buzzard, successfully and safely carried out the turnaround. 

Located about 100 kilometres northeast of Aberdeen, United Kingdom (UK) in approximately 95 metres of water, the CNOOC International-operated Buzzard asset is the UK’s highest-producing field. Suncor holds 29.9% in the project which started production in 2007 and delivers more than 20,000 barrels to our business per day. 

On June 30, the asset went back online after completing a complex six-week turnaround to support production for phase two of development and address maintenance work. The turnaround was completed on schedule with no significant health and safety incidents as the team developed a comprehensive COVID-19 management plan.  

“I’m incredibly proud of the role Suncor played in supporting the successful completion of this project with a view of supporting safe and reliable operations at Buzzard,” says Aidan Campbell, Suncor’s UK Country Manager, based in Aberdeen, Scotland. “Developing and delivering safe, innovative and creative solutions was key to the success. We were essentially carrying out a ‘double turnaround’ to support phase two production while also addressing key maintenance scope of work.”

To safely carry out the work during the pandemic, an enormous accommodation vessel, the Safe Boreas – often referred to as a ‘flotel’ – was brought in to allow the workforce of almost 400 people to be housed with safe distancing. It’s a highly advanced and efficient vessel designed for worldwide operations, even in the harshest offshore environments. The flotel was connected to the platform by a bridge, allowing walk-to-work access in the middle of the North Sea.

Speaking of enormous vessels, in order to install the 516-ton phase two module for the project, the world’s largest heavy lift vessel, the Pioneering Spirit, was brought in.

With safe and careful guidance, the module was smoothly and successfully lifted onto the existing platform within two hours.