Between 1969 and 1977, eleven semisubmersible drilling platforms were designed and built with an innovative pentagon shaped hull, specifically to work in the harsh environment of the North Sea. One of the drilling rigs, the Alexander L. Kielland, was converted soon after construction into an accommodation platform (flotel) and failed catastrophically in 1980. Another, the Pentagon 83 “Drillmaster” (renamed as Buchan Alpha), was being converted to a Floating Production Unit at the time of the disaster. The structure of Buchan Alpha was significantly modified during the conversion of the platform so that it benefited from the lessons learnt following the Alexander L. Kielland accident to ensure that the same sequence of events could not be repeated.

This technical paper objective is to explain the integrated decommissioning process of the Buchan Alpha in the UK after more than 40 years since being built and more than 35 years of successful operation since it was converted to a Floating Production Unit, and how the features of its original design have accompanied the platform through the decommissioning process.

The scope covers all phases of Buchan Alpha decommissioning from the detailed planning and preparation, the suspension of production up to the dismantling and recycling process.

Significant challenges for the decommissioning team included the requirement to preserve the operational status of the subsea infrastructure for potential future field redevelopment and the diver disconnection of the subsea wells.

Buchan Alpha’s deep draught presented limitations on the selection of dismantling and recycling yards due to quayside water depths. Complex ballasting operations and removal of the thruster’s propellers were required to facilitate the platform berthing at the quayside.

Key lessons learned applicable for future decommissioning of floating production facilities will be shared.

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