Total launches mammoth gas plant in Britain's Shetlands
Total officially launched Monday a huge new gas project in Britain's remote Shetland Islands, hailed by London as a "vote of confidence" in the flagging North Sea oil and gas industry.
The French energy giant officially opened the Shetland Gas Plant in Britain's northernmost outpost, which cost £3.5 billion ($5 billion, 4.4 billion euros) to build.
Bringing in gas from the Laggan-Tormore fields, the plant began production on February 7, which has since been ramped up to its full capacity of 500,000 cubic feet of gas (90,000 barrels of oil equivalent) per day.
The fields are expected to last for about 20 years.
The Scottish North Sea oil and gas sector has been reeling from a plunge in oil prices since mid-2014, leading the British government to cut taxes for the industry.
Amber Rudd, the minister for energy and climate change, called the opening of the Shetland project a "vote of confidence in the offshore oil and gas industry".
The plant was "creating jobs and providing secure, affordable energy to the UK's families and businesses for decades to come", she said in a statement.
"North Sea oil and gas is crucial to our energy mix.
"We are 100 percent committed to helping our oil and gas industry attract investment, unlock new potential and remain competitive for the future."
The Laggan-Tormore fields lie around 80 miles (125 kilometres) northwest of Shetland.
Total chief executive Patrick Pouyanne said the project demonstrated the company's "commitment" to Britain and said it would help the country's long-term energy security.
"This subsea-to-shore development is the first of its kind in the country and will provide the domestic market with eight percent of its daily gas requirements while enabling the potential for further developments in the West of Shetland area," Pouyanne said in a statement.
Located in up to 600 metres (1,970 feet) of water, the five wells tap reservoirs that lie 3,500 to 3,900 metres (11,500 to 12,800 feet) beneath the sea floor.
The gas is treated at the Shetland plant before the processed gas is piped into Britain's main grid.
Total claimed the plant was Britain's biggest construction project since the London 2012 Olympics, employing 2,500 people at the peak of construction.
Laggan-Tormore is operated by Total with junior partners Denmark-headquartered DONG Energy and British energy company SSE, which each have a 20 percent interest.
The Shetland Islands are around 105 miles (165 kilometres) northeast of the Scottish mainland.
Shetland was invaded by Vikings in the late eighth and early ninth centuries.
The archipelago was pledged to Scotland by the king of Norway in 1469 but the Norwegian spirit lives on in street and place names and islanders celebrate their Norse roots.
© 2016 AFP