BP goes stateside to reduce cost of Clair development

BP has gone to a US engineering firm in an attempt to cut the cost of the initial development of its giant Clair oil field off the west coast of Scotland.

Houston-based Mustang Eng-ineering last week won a $5m front-end engineering design contract for the project, ahead of three shortlisted British groups. Mustang was taken over by the UK’s Wood Group in July.

Wood Group Engineering had originally bid separately for the contract, but will now assist Mustang. Most of the design work will be carried out in Houston, where about 10 Wood Group engineers will join a 30-strong team from Mustang.

Mustang, which has a 1,300-strong workforce, is considered to be the leader of cost-saving engineering on projects in the Gulf of Mexico by applying production engineering techniques to offshore projects. In particular, it aims to use standard components to reduce design costs and a ‘fit for purpose’ approach to facilities rather than the ‘gold-plated’ one that has traditionally characterised North Sea projects.

Gordon Stirling, managing director of Wood Group Eng-ineering, said the firm’s simplification of design elements was another factor, particularly for control systems. He said the combination of Mustang’s approach with Wood Group’s operational experience in the UK sector would enable the Clair project to get close to the lower Gulf of Mexico costs. ‘We need to demonstrate to the UK industry that it can be done,’ he added.

BP and its partners have set a target of under $750m for developing Clair, which contains an estimated four billion barrels of oil. Only about 250 million barrels will be recovered in the first phase of development