The oil industry may be undergoing a tough time at the present but sister industry gas is marking a landmark with the 30th anniversary of gas production from the sea off the Fylde coast.
Gas formed in rocks lying deep beneath the Irish Sea was piped into the National Grid for the first time in January 1985, and today it continues to heat around 1.5 million homes.
At peak, the region produced enough gas to meet 20 per cent of the UK’s domestic demand and, thanks to continuous investment in technology, skills and infrastructure, production has exceeded its original lifespan and is expected to continue into the 2020s. In 2013, the first new gas field in 10 years, known as Rhyl, came on stream and work is now under way on a multimillion-pound project to upgrade the Barrow Gas Terminals.
The rigs are serviced by Bond Offshore helicopters based at Blackpool Airport and the rig crews refer to flying home as “going back to the beach”. It is a 12-minute flight to the rigs situated 27 miles off Morecambe.
Graham Sheedy, Operations Manager for Centrica Energy in Morecambe Bay, said: “Our 30-year anniversary is an opportunity to reflect upon the significant contribution Morecambe Bay gas has made to the UK. From 1985 to the present day, it has heated millions of homes and businesses, and has also powered major investments and innovations which have contributed to the economy and brought benefits to communities and individuals.
“The professionalism of the people who work on gas production in Morecambe Bay makes me really proud. Operating 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, we don’t stop during bad weather, we don’t stop in the holidays. We operate safely and efficiently for the company and the country – it’s an incredible story.
Andy Bevington, Director of Operated Assets for Centrica Energy’s UK & Netherlands business, said: “Morecambe was a massive find, developed in a really innovative way for its time, so to still be producing 30 years later is a great achievement. Morecambe Bay continues to make a huge contribution to our business, and we are still investing in the area to make sure there is plenty of life left for these fields.”
The surface area of the gas reservoir is the size of the city of Birmingham. The average depth to the seabed from the platform is 30.5m and the tallest part of the main fixture is 68m from sea level – about the same height as Big Ben. 6.7 million cubic metres of gas are produced every day, which would fill Wembley Stadium six times over.