The third major upstream project to come online for bp this year, a Central North Sea subsea tieback, demonstrates the company’s focus on fast-payback hydrocarbons.
Emeka Emembolu, bp’s senior vice president, North Sea, has praised the resilience and determination of the team in bringing a 30-million-barrel field online safely – despite the challenges of COVID-19.
Vorlich is the second North Sea fast-paced, high-return subsea tieback to come onstream in as many years, following the successful start-up of Alligin, west of Shetland, in 2019.
Emembolu said that in just two short years, bp and its partner, Ithaca Energy, have pulled out all the stops to rapidly bring Vorlich online against a highly challenging backdrop.
“My sincere thanks and admiration go to all involved for overcoming many hurdles to reach this fantastic milestone,” she said.
The field has been developed through two wells with peak production expected to reach 20,000 barrels oil equivalent gross per day. Vorlich hydrocarbons are processed through Ithaca’s FPF-1 floating production facility, located around 240 kilometres east of Aberdeen.
bp and Ithaca Energy invested £230 million to develop the field, which was discovered in 2014 and received regulatory approval for development in 2018.
It is the third of five major bp projects expected to start up in 2020, contributing to the global target to deliver 900,000 barrels per day from major projects by the end of 2021.
An innovative partnership
bp and Ithaca each played to their strengths to bring Vorlich to life. Ithaca installed the subsea infrastructure and executed the modifications on the FPF-1 in order to receive and process the Vorlich hydrocarbons, whilst bp operated the field through the development phase, drilling the wells and installing the wellheads.
Shortly before start-up, operatorship switched to Ithaca, who will oversee the production phase of the development.
Earlier this year, before the scale of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was known, the Vorlich project team was on the home straight, targeting first production in September, as planned. However, lockdowns and travel and work restrictions stopped them in their tracks.
Stuart Johnstone, bp Central North Sea tiebacks project manager, said all the decisions taken in response to COVID were absolutely necessary to protect the health and wellbeing of everyone involved in the project.
“But, with industry in lockdown and an ever-decreasing summer work window, it was hard to remain upbeat around the chances of bringing Vorlich online this year. Despite this, we dug deep, pulling out all the stops to turn things around,” Mr Johnstone said.
Delivered in partnership with Ithaca Energy, Vorlich demonstrates bp’s commitment to resilient, focused hydrocarbons, which are essential to fuelling its transformation into an integrated energy company.
Vorlich is also the latest in a programme of fast-paced, high-return, subsea tiebacks. This is when a new oil or gas discovery is connected to existing infrastructure, making the start-up of production from the well quicker and with fewer emissions than assets that require new processing facilities.