(Adds comment from Chevron from paragraph 11)
By Daniel Fineren
LONDON Aug 30 The CATS gas pipeline, which
supplies up to a fifth of Britain's gas, is to reopen this week
after a two-month repair shutdown, allowing a cluster of North
Sea oil and gas fields to resume output earlier than expected.
Pipeline operator BP (BP.L) said on Thursday it had begun
filling the Central Area Transmission System (CATS) after
repairing it ahead of schedule and that it would reopen the
pipeline to commercial flows at the end of the week.
Normal flows are expected around the middle of September, it
The pipeline, which carries gas from a number of North Sea
oil and gas fields, was shut on July 1 for repairs after a large
vessel scratched off its protective casing with its anchor in
June. Until now, BP had said that the repairs could run into
ConocoPhillips (COP.N), the operator of the J-Block oil and
gas fields connected to CATS, said it expected to restart
exports from Friday.
The repairs have prevented J-Block -- which produced over
35,644 barrels of oil and 12 million cubic metres of gas a day
in April -- from exporting either fuel because it cannot pump
oil while there is nowhere for the associated gas to go.
"J-Block is ready to start production and anticipates
recommencing exporting through CATS on Friday Aug. 31," a Conoco
spokeswoman said. "That was good news coming through that it was
completed ahead of schedule."
Conoco said oil flows should also be able to restart through
the Norpipe pipeline to northeast England from Friday.
A spokeswoman for BG Group BG.L, which operates the Armada
oil and gas field connected to the same system, said it expected
to return to full production by mid-September.
Armada - which produced around 10,770 bpd of oil in March
and a total of 42.30 billion cubic feet of gas last year, had
the same problem as J-Block, industry sources said last month.
Chevron (CVX.N), which last month admitted the repair was
affecting production from its 11,000 bpd Erskine oil field but
would not say how badly, said it hoped to restart the field
within a week.
"Chevron expects to restart production from its Erskine
field around Sept 5, depending on the progress of the CATS
staged re-entry plan," a spokeswoman for the company said.
Erskine also produced about 1.8 million cubic metres a day
of gas in March, according to government figures.
BP also operates fields connected to the CATS pipeline but a
spokesman would not comment on the production impact.
CATS PATCHED UP
BP said in a statement on Thursday that divers had installed
a metal sleeve to strengthen and protect the pipeline where it
was scratched by the anchor in stormy seas at the end of June.
When the anchor hit, CATS had been flowing at a reduced rate
because of planned offshore field maintenance. But several of
those fields, including J-Block, would have been sending gas to
the UK over the last two months had the path not been blocked.
The 408-km pipeline links a riser platform, adjacent to the
North Everest development in the Central North Sea, with the gas
processing terminal at Teesside.
The pipeline can transport over 48 million cubic metres a
day of gas, around 20 percent of the UK's peak demand.