The mission Nicola Stevenson and Teresa Bachelet chose to accept as part of bp’s Seagull project team can be summed up in two key words: reuse and repurpose.

The two engineers – Nicola as project leader and Teresa the commissioning manager – were part of the team working on bp’s latest development in the North Sea.

From the outset, the plan to access the Seagull field’s estimated 50 million barrels of oil and gas was ambitious: connect four new wells to the 25-year-old central processing facility (CPF) of the Eastern Trough Area Project (ETAP) hub located 140 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland.

As an added challenge, the Seagull project team was tasked with making the most of equipment already in situ and serving existing oil and gas operations. 

Then, just as work on the project was ramping up, Covid-19 and the associated lockdowns hit.


‘Open heart surgery’

Seagull is located 10 miles south of the ETAP CPF, meaning the task of connecting back to the host facility was no mean feat.

“We know very well that when we bring a new field into an existing platform it’s hard for the two to seamlessly fit together. Our job was to make it work,” says Teresa, who helped to oversee the development. 

This was the first new field connected to the ETAP CPF in 20 years, adding to the six fields that already produce through the facility: Machar, Madoes, Mirren, Monan, Marnock and Mungo.

To make the project a reality, parts of the CPF were subject to a complete overhaul. That work took place while the other ETAP fields continued to produce, something that Nicola likened to "performing open heart surgery".

While bp was responsible for modifying the ETAP CPF to receive the new production from Seagull, Neptune Energy, a partner in the Seagull field, handled the underwater portion of the project. That included drilling of wells and the installation of an additional section of pipeline.

“The challenge on the CPF modifications was, primarily, working on a live platform,” says Nicola, who has managed bp projects around the world. “The ETAP CPF has two bridge-linked platforms, and we have worked all over them to get the facility ready to receive Seagull production.”

Teresa added that “the focus to reuse existing kit offshore, along with repurposing materials where possible, meant Seagull could be developed in a relatively short timeframe.”


A new way of working

The fact that much of the work on Seagull took place during a global pandemic added an additional layer of complexity to the project.

Teresa arrived in Aberdeen from a posting in South Korea in January 2020. Lockdown hit before she had the opportunity to get offshore to ETAP. 

“Covid changed the way we worked, but we didn’t let it stop us,” says Teresa, who has worked on projects in 12 countries over the past 20 years.

“We engineered Seagull from our homes, from our bedrooms, our offices, our living rooms. And that work was then executed offshore by teams dealing with their own challenges during the pandemic.”

When Teresa finally got offshore to ETAP in May 2022, she was impressed with how well the teams worked together. 

“To see the care and professionalism of our teams up close is inspiring,” she says. “Not just my bp colleagues, but all our partners and contractors. The strength of the North Sea supply chain community was evident.”

At the project’s peak, there were around 500 people supporting the ETAP CPF modifications, many of whom were housed on a floating hotel (flotel) chartered by bp and connected to the facility. A further 300 jobs were supported through the work delivered by Neptune Energy.

Many of those working on the project were women, something that Teresa says was unique in her experience.

“It gave me a real sense of pride to see us doing jobs that in the past were not always open to us,” she says.