Blog January 03, 2018

Around 400,000 bpd of North Sea production was shut-in for more than two weeks in December 2017 after a crack was discovered in the Forties pipeline. Production from more than 80 North Sea fields, including the prolific Buzzard field, is moved onshore via INEOS's 1.15mn bpd Forties Pipeline System (FPS). The North Sea production blend, Forties, shipped on the pipeline underpins the largest portion of the Dated Brent international crude benchmark, highlighting the effect Forties pipeline issues have on crude markets.

Initial pipeline restart activity was detected by Genscape at 4:54 (GMT) on December 25 when the oil stabilization facility at Kinneil, Scotland, started to resume operations. Forties crude flows from the Forties Unity platform to the Kinneil crude stabilization plant, where oil and NGL combined flow is stabilized in three processing trains for consumption at INEOS' 210,000 bpd Grangemouth, Scotland, refinery or exported via the Dalmeny, Scotland, storage terminal and Hound Point port.


All three Kinneil processing trains were operating normally as of December 29, according to Genscape. Two tankers have loaded at Hound Point since the pipeline resumed operations. The Aframax Antonis loaded approximately 598,000 bbls on December 30 and 31 before departing for Rotterdam. The Aframax Stavanger Ts arrived at Hound Point on January 1 and began loading.

No Forties tanker loadings or refinery deliveries were detected from December 12 to 26. The Almi Voyager was the last ship to load at Hound Point and departed at 18:45 (GMT) on December 11, carrying less than 800,000 bbls toward Rotterdam. Stocks at Dalmeny, the onshore terminal for Hound Point loadings, were depleted to minimum operating levels during the FPS outage, according to Genscape.

The Kinneil stabilization terminal shuts if the FPS shuts and vice versa. Genscape saw that pipeline flow, and subsequently processing at Kinneil, was shuttered for approximately 23 hours when the pipeline crack was initially detected on December 7, resuming on December 8. Operations at Kinneil were again stopped on December 11 when the pipeline was shut for repairs, as monitored by Genscape and reported by INEOS.

INEOS also reduced rates at the Grangemouth refinery due to the FPS shut down. The 110,000 bpd crude distillation unit (CDU) remained offline as of December 27 after being shut since December 15 and the 65,000 bpd CDU was briefly offline from December 13 to 14. Genscape monitoring showed that the 39,600 bpd catalytic reformer at the refinery was also shut at 11:16 (GMT) on December 24.

In November 2017, FPS flow averaged near 418,000 bpd of unstabilized crude oil. INEOS reported that December 2017 flow was expected to be near 468,000 bpd; however, Genscape data showed that flows averaged less than 190,000 bpd through the month.

Monthly Average Forties Pipeline Flow

Prior to the December 2017 crack-related shutdown, the FPS pipeline had been shut only six times since Genscape began monitoring the line in February 2011. In August 2011, Forties was shut for about two weeks so that an unexploded WWII mine could be removed. In 2013 and 2014, the pipeline was down for two and three weeks respectively for planned maintenance. Three shut downs in February 2016, August 2016, and September 2016 were related to operational issues at Kinneil. BP operated the FPS until October 31, 2017, when INEOS assumed ownership.

Access Genscape's Forties Supply Chain Service to receive timely insightful alerts. They not only highlight variations in the real-time pipeline flow, but also underline events that affect the key operating units at Kinneil and Grangemouth. The daily snapshot of oil storage, pipeline, shipment, and refinery activity provides a valuable overview of Forties exiting the system. To learn more, or request a free trial of Genscape's Forties Supply Chain Service, please click here.