Maersk Oil to keep Gryphon FPSO shut for months after sustaining storm damage in the UK North Sea

By Phaedra Friend Troy

After sustaining damage from a storm last week, the Gryphon oil and gas field development will remain shut-in for “a considerable time,” reports operator Maersk Oil.

During heavy storms last Friday in the UK North Sea, four of the ten anchor chains broke on the FPSO, allowing the vessel to move out of position. Immediately, all wells were closed.

Two crewmembers sustained minor injuries during the event. Maersk evacuated seventy-four non-essential personnel to a nearby platform, and 43 essential crew remain on board.

The FPSO was stabilized about 10 minutes after moving off position.

“Given the sudden and rapid nature of this incident under extreme weather conditions, I want to praise the prompt and calm response of the crew on board that ensured wells were shut and the vessel made stable in a very short amount of time,” said Martin Pedersen, Managing Director of Maersk Oil UK.

Subsequent surveys from planes and other vessels have not spotted any oil.

Crews are working to permanently secure the Gryphon FPSO, as well as assess damage and determine any future repairs. Two tugboats are working to secure the FPSO and allow the anchor chains to be reconnected to the anchors.

An independent team is investigating the incident, determining the exact sequence of events and its causes.

“While we expect to have the FPSO permanently secured with anchors soon, the investigations, repair work to the FPSO and the associated riser system will take a long time. Gryphon will be shut for several months, although it is far too early to be more precise,” Pedersen said.

Maersk Oil is working with the appropriate authorities, including the Health and Safety Executive and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The Gryphon FPSO serves the Gryphon, Maclure and Tullich oil and gas fields in the UK North Sea. The development includes a complex riser system that runs from the subsea wells to the FPSO on the water’s surface.

Gross daily production was projected to be 18,400 barrels of oil a day in 2011.

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