North Sea oil pipeline back in service after short outage

The Forties pipeline system was closed in December after a hairline crack was discovered onshore near Aberdeen and shut again Wednesday after a valve issue.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Feb. 8, 2018 at 6:58 AM
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Feb. 8 (UPI) -- The operator of a pipeline system that carries about 40 percent of the oil produced in the North Sea said Thursday a short-term disruption has been resolved.

The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark based on the basket of crude oils produced from the North Sea, got a brief jolt in morning trading Wednesday after it was reported the Forties pipeline system was closed.

"INEOS FPS confirms the start-up of the Forties pipeline system is now underway following the successful resolution of an issue yesterday with a feed control valve," the company said in a statement.

INEOS is the operator of the system. The company acquired the 235-mile network from British supermajor BP in a multi-million dollar deal in early 2017.

A hairline crack was discovered in the pipeline near Aberdeen and the company closed the system down Dec. 11. INEOS later declared force majeure on contracts for the system after a number of fields closed as a result of the disruption.

Force majeure is a contractual condition related to circumstances beyond the control of the parties involved.

The closure of the system in mid-December triggered a 2 percent spike in the price for Brent crude oil. U.S. data showing production topped 10 million barrels per day on average overshadowed the Wednesday disruption to send crude oil prices lower.

During the last decade, commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts changed up the basket of what constitutes the Brent benchmark by adding Forties, Oseberg and Ekofisk grades from the North Sea as production from the Brent field itself started to decline.

The pricing agency in early 2016 said now that those other fields are starting to show their age, it's time to consider adding another blend to what constitutes Brent by adding oil from the Troll field, operated by Norwegian energy major Statoil.

The price for Brent crude oil was around $64.30 in the week in December that followed the closure of the Forties system. The crack was repaired in late December.

Brent topped $70 per barrel in January in response to geopolitical risk and market exuberance. Brent was trading near $65 per barrel early Thursday.

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