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North Sea oil firm Fairfield Energy plans to start decommissioning its Dunlin assets in the summer, paving the way for market specialists to be at the heart of a project worth £400million.

Production from all Dunlin cluster fields will shut down in mid-June, Fairfield said yesterday.

Its decommissioning plans have still to be finalised and approved in consultation with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), the Oil and Gas Authority and “other relevant regulatory and industry bodies and stakeholders”.

MCX Dunlin – a subsidiary of Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation – is the 30% working interest partner in the assets, which Fairfield acquired from Shell and its partners in April 2008.

The cluster includes the Dunlin, Dunlin South West, Merlin and Osprey fields.

They have produced more than 522million barrels over 37 years of operation, which is much longer than the Dunlin Alpha platform’s original 25-year design life.

Fairfield said Dunlin Alpha would remain fully manned and operational “in the meantime”, continuing to export third party oil into the Brent system pipeline.

A phased decommissioning process is expected to take a number of years, with “high offshore activity levels maintained throughout”.

Fairfield chief executive David Peattie said: “The Dunlin asset has now achieved maximum economic recovery.

“Taking into account the asset’s lifecycle, the depressed oil price and challenging operational conditions in the North Sea, starting the decommissioning process is the most appropriate action.

“Our investment programme has prolonged the life of Dunlin, leading to a notable contribution to the British economy and the creation of jobs in North Sea oil and gas.

“We are fully committed to delivering a safe and transparent decommissioning process and will work closely with staff and stakeholders to achieve this.”

The Dunlin field came on stream in August 1978, with daily oil production peaking at around 120,000 barrels in 1979.

It lies about 310 miles north-east of Aberdeen and seven miles from the boundary line with Norway.

Fairfield is a privately-held company backed by a syndicate of investors. The company has offices in Staines-upon-Thames in Middlesex and Westhill, near Aberdeen.

Since acquiring Dunlin, the firm has invested substantially in new technology and operational and efficiency improvements to significantly extend its lifespan.

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