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Buzzard Outage Sends Ripple Down Forties Supply Chain

offshore oil production

The Buzzard field, the largest contributor to Forties flow, was shut on April 4 due to unplanned maintenance at one of the onshore processing plants. The outage affected vessel loading at Hound Point, one of the delivery points for the Forties pipeline system, and significant flaring activity at the Buzzard offshore platform was observed via satellite. Buzzard resumed operation on April 6, according to Reuters, and by April 9, Genscape saw that the Forties oil balance flow (moving average) had nearly recovered to pre-Buzzard-outage levels.  

Following the restart of Buzzard production, between April 7 to 9, the seven-day average Forties oil balance flow, an assessment of pipeline flow via the volumes received at the three delivery points, averaged 375,000 barrels per day (bpd). During the two-day production cut, Forties flow averaged 327,000 bpd, a 20 percent decrease from pipeline rates April 1 to 4 when flow averaged 410,000 bpd.

Flow lower ahead of Buzzard upset

Previously, at the end of March, Genscape saw a significant drop in Forties pipeline flow (Figure 1). Flow only averaged 393,000 bpd for the last nine days of March, compared to 504,000 bpd for the previous nine days. Overall March flows were slightly higher at 452,000 bpd compared to 442,000 bpd for February.

Forties 7-day Average Oil Balance

Vessels wait to load at Hound Point

The VLCC Tamagawa finished loading Forties crude at Hound Point late April 7 (Figure 2) and departed the following morning, according to Genscape. She was initially heading towards Brixham, United Kingdom, but changed destination on April 10 to Tianjin, China. Prior to the Tamagawa loading, no tankers had loaded at Hound Point in over a week, which was the longest lull with without tankers docking since October 2016.

VLCC Tamagawa

Lower Forties flow, due to the Buzzard production disruption, likely delayed loading of the VLCC. Generally, crude oil inventories at Dalmeny, the staging storage location for crude bound for Hound Point deliveries, are near two million barrels (bbls) before a VLCC commences loading. Dalmeny inventories, however, were only 1.7 million bbls prior to the Tamagawa loading.

The Baltic Glory arrived at Hound Point just before midnight on April 10, while the Gener8 Miltiades was expected to arrive at Hound Point on April 11 but had not docked as of April 12, coming from Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, according to Genscape Vesseltracker™ AIS data. With multiple tankers listed on the loading program and in the vicinity (including floating storage), activity is ramping up following the Buzzard outage.

The Forties pipeline system has an oil processing capacity of 1.15 million bpd and flows from the Forties Unity platform to the Kinneil crude stabilization plant. From there, stabilized oil is delivered either directly to ship at Hound Point, to tank at Dalmeny or to the refinery at Grangemouth. Genscape monitors several pumping stations and facilities including Kinneil, Grangemouth, Cruden Bay, and Netherley. Genscape's daily Forties Supply Hub report provides critical insight and daily developments on all key factors of this pipeline system, which is one of the main contributors to the Brent crude benchmark. Please click here to learn more, or to request a free trial of Genscape’s Forties Supply Chain Monitor.

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