Elgin and Franklin fields will be operated by Elf Exploration UK plc (EEUK)in an environment quite different from earlier generations of North Sea developments. Production personnel are becoming increasingly exposed to fluctuating commercial pressures in the oil & gas industry and need to beprepared to respond to these. At the same time, more and more Operators consider some functions which are important to successful production as‘non-core’ activities and look to contractors to provide and support these functions through contracts which motivate performance.

Not only are skills transferring between Operators and contractors but also technology is being employed to reduce the size of offshore crews. In addition, production from Elgin and Franklin will commence under a goal setting legislative regime, which increases pressure upon Operators to ensure that they have access to the right people to ensure safe and responsible operation.

In an environment where competition for people with the right mix of knowledge, experience and adaptability is strong, EEUK has adopted a strategy for operation and maintenance of Elgin and Franklin which will enable contractors to demonstrate their commitment to new ways of working. Some companies that have supplied critical equipment and systems, have been given the opportunity to be involved long term in the successful and safe production of gas and condensate.

Introduction

The Elgin and Franklin fields lie in the Central Graben area of the North Sea's UK Sector, approximately 240km east of Aberdeen and in 93m water depth. Ultimate recovery from the 2 high pressure and high temperature fields is estimated at 48.5 billion cubic metres of gas with 57.5 million cubic metres of condensate. Reservoirs have an initial pressure topping 1100bar with temperature close to 200°C and will be produced through 12 wells. First production should take place by mid-2000 with peak production capability set respectively at 14.6 million cubic metres of gas and 27,800 cubic metres of condensate per day. The field architecture comprises three platforms : one wellhead platform on the Elgin field bridge-connected to a production, utilities and quarters (PUQ) platform with a second, normally unattended, wellhead platform on Franklin 5.5km away. Fluids from Franklin are transferred to the PUQ by two 12" bundled pipelines. On the PUQ, gas will be processed offshore to commercial specifications and routed ashore to the Shell/Esso terminal in Bacton via a gas export system (468km of 34" pipe) shared with Shearwater. Condensate from the PUQ co-mingles with that from Shearwater in a24" liquid export system of 38km, which joins the Forties Pipeline System via the Marnock-to-Unity pipeline.

To address the main objectives set for safe and efficient operation in the Production Phase (optimisation of OPEX, high plant availability, operator to retain and demonstrate offshore operations control), EEUK elected to build long term relationships with some key players in the achievement of production goals. ‘Partnership-based’ contracts are being awarded to specific equipment vendors or to contractors that specialise in the maintenance of generic equipment such as pumps, valves, HVAC, telecommunication and safety systems. A single contractor provides personnel to operate and maintain facilities offshore, and manages all maintenance and operations related contracts.

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