Drifting North Sea Barge Under Control After Forcing Closures

  • BP starts returning workers to Valhall oilfield in Norway
  • BP, Conoco have halted production at affected fields

BP's offshore Valhall platform in the North Sea.

Source: BP

A drifting barge in the North Sea has been brought under control and is being towed to the Norwegian coast after it missed hitting a production platform operated by BP Plc.

BP has started returning workers to the Valhall oil field in Norway’s section of the North Sea after evacuating them earlier as the barge headed toward offshore installations in the field, spokesman Jan Erik Geirmo said by phone Thursday. Production remains shut and it will take some days before it returns to normal levels, he said. The company currently has 71 people on the platforms, where 235 worked before the evacuation.  

ConocoPhillips and BP shut their fields in the area after the barge broke loose in bad weather and drifted in the open sea. Conoco closed the Eldfisk and Embla fields and moved 145 people from Eldfisk, 95 of them to the shore, spokesman Stig Kvendseth said by e-mail.

The Eide Barge 33 is 109 meters long (358 feet), 45 meters wide and 30 meters high, Eirik Walle, duty controller at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center at Stavanger, Norway, said by phone.

The field closures cap a difficult week for operators in the North Sea amid severe weather. Aker Solutions ASA, a Norwegian oil services company, said Wednesday that an employee died when a large wave hit a rig working at Statoil ASA’s Troll field, located to the north of Valhall. Statoil evacuated crew and removed the damaged rig from the well. Marathon Oil Corp. halted oil and natural gas production at the Brae Alpha platform on Dec. 26 following a gas leak.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it hasn’t heard of any of its North Sea fields being affected. BG Group Plc said its three U.K. North Sea fields are operating with additional safety measures to counter weather conditions.

Oil from BP’s Valhall and Conoco’s Eldfisk fields feeds into Ekofisk, which is one of the crudes used to price the Dated Brent global benchmark. Oil and gas from the Embla field is piped to Eldfisk. The Norwegian unit of Hess Corp. has a 64 percent stake in Valhall, according to BP’s website.

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