Oil and Gas

All clear after bomb alert shuts down UK gas rig

LONDON (Reuters) - The operator of one of Britain’s biggest gas fields shut down production and evacuated more than 160 workers from a North Sea platform on Sunday, after a suspicious object sparked a full-scale security alert.

A North Sea oil rig is shown in this Decemberr 13, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Marit Hommedal/Scanpix

About 14 military and civilian helicopters and a Nimrod surveillance aircraft took part in an operation to evacuate workers from the Safe Scandinavia platform.

The operation began after a worker reported a “possible suspicious device” on the platform, the gas field’s operator said. Officials later said the scare at the Britannia gas field turned out to be a false alarm.

Safe Scandinavia is a “floating hotel” for around 500 workers, linked by a bridge to the Britannia gas platform, 210 km (130 miles) northeast of the Scottish city of Aberdeen.

“A thorough search...has revealed nothing suspicious and it has now been deemed safe for workers to return to normal operations,” Britannia Operator Ltd said in a statement.

“All those involved in the incident are safe and unhurt and the installations are secure,” it added.

Production from the Britannia field was shut down as a precaution following the security alert, said Muriel Roberts, a spokeswoman for the operating company.

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“We’ll be restarting as soon as possible and get back to normal just as soon as we can,” she said.

Early last year, the Britannia field’s production was producing 14.35 million cubic meters of gas a day.

U.S. energy firms ConocoPhillips and Chevron operate the Britannia field -- one of the largest natural gas and gas condensate fields developed in the North Sea in recent years -- through Britannia Operator Ltd.

The helicopters flew 161 workers to neighboring platforms before the evacuation was halted and the workers returned to the Safe Scandinavia, she said.

Police said they were investigating the incident but did not consider it terrorism-related. As part of their inquiry, they said they were making arrangements for a 23-year-old British woman to be brought to shore.

A police spokeswoman said the incident had been “very quickly contained”. Nobody had been arrested, she said.

The Safe Scandinavia is owned and operated by Oslo-listed company ProSafe. No-one was immediately available for comment on the incident.

Additional reporting by John Joseph; Editing by Jon Boyle