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Strike cuts Total's UK North Sea natural gas output by 13 million cu m

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Strike cuts Total's UK North Sea natural gas output by 13 million cu m

  • Author
  • Neil Hunter
  • Editor
  • Jeremy Lovell
  • Commodity
  • Natural Gas

London — Strike action on Monday cut flows from the Total-operated Elgin-Franklin and Alwyn natural gas field areas in the UK North Sea by 13 million cu m/d, giving the prompt UK gas price a small boost.

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* Flows expected to resume Tuesday evening

* Lower CCGT demand offsets strike-driven outage

* Further strikes planned for Total, Equinor facilities

The Unite trade union confirmed industrial action had begun at the Alwyn, Dunbar and Elgin platforms at 0500 GMT for a 24-hour period, with a series of further 24-hour and 12-hour stoppages planned in coming weeks.

Lower gas demand for power generation in the UK and a steady supply picture meant the loss of production from the fields did not have as big an impact as might have been the case.

Elgin Franklin-flows into the Bacton SEAL pipeline system were reduced to zero early Monday, and were not set to restart until Tuesday evening, Total said in a REMIT note on its website.

Alwyn flows into the NSMP terminal at St Fergus have also stopped and are not expected to restart until "some point" on Tuesday, Total said.

Elgin Franklin can flow at 10 million cu m/d and Alwyn at 3 million cu m/d, according to Total's data.

"Production has been stopped and the wells shut," the Unite union said in emailed comments. "No further talks are planned at present."

Unite regional officer John Boland called on Total to "come back to us with an improved offer to get our members back to work and the wells up and running again."

Total said it remained committed to consultation with the workforce. "What is at stake here is to ensure the long-term sustainability of our business in the North Sea, to enhance overall safety and remain the most efficient in our operations," a spokeswoman said.

A separate strike by Total's workers at the Shetland Gas Plant, which handles flows from the West of Shetland area, was postponed by a week to allow time for talks.

"We're pleased to be able to continue discussions with staff at the Shetland Gas Plant," the spokeswoman said.


The UK supply-demand picture remained broadly balanced despite the strike-driven outage, although the NBP spot price rose in early trading, with within-day up 1.4 p/th to 58.60 p/th and day-ahead up 0.95 p/th to 58.45 p/th.

Imports from Norway for Monday were 81 million cu m/d, stable on flows in July to date.

Supplies via the IUK to Belgium were nominated for Monday at 47 million cu m/d, which is also close to the July average of 48 million cu m/d, so the strike did not lead to a downturn in exports.

Storage injections were also nominated for a net 3 million cu m/d Monday, not out of the ordinary from working days so far in July.

It was CCGT demand that offset most of the outage, nominated at 54 million cu m/d, down from the working day July average of 63 million cu m/d, although this was likely incidental and not a deliberate reduction.


The disruption at Total's platforms follows optimistic statements by top executives from European majors recently about the outlook for the North Sea, although a withdrawal by North American majors continues, with Chevron planning to sell its legacy assets.

Both Norway and the UK have seen an uptick in industrial action, with a strike by Norway's second largest offshore union resolved last week.

The strike by Unite centers on offshore shift patterns requiring workers to spend three consecutive weeks offshore, as well as other conditions.

Unions have argued workers need to be compensated after a period of forbearance during the industry downturn.

Separately, contractors with Aker engineering company have voted to take industrial action at Equinor's (formerly Statoil) Mariner heavy oil project starting in early-August, Unite said.

Mariner is due to start production for the first time towards the end of the year.

Unite said further 24-hour strikes would take place at the Total platforms on August 6 and August 20, and 12-hour strikes on July 30 and August 13, along with the overtime ban.

--Siobhan Hall,

--Stuart Elliott,

--Neil Hunter,

--Nick Coleman,

--Edited by Jeremy Lovell,