Page last updated at 14:58 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Tug to haul North Sea rig to the Falkland islands

Ocean Guardian. Image: Diamond Offshore Drilling
The Ocean Guardian rig in the Cromarty Firth

A tug boat is to haul a North Sea oil and gas exploration rig from a Highlands deep water port on a 62-day journey to the Falkland Islands.

The Ocean Guardian rig will be used by Desire Petroleum to explore reserves in the North Falkland Basin.

Its owner Diamond Offshore Drilling said the length of the trip from Invergordon on the Cromarty Firth could change if there was bad weather.

The tug Maersk Traveller is expected to begin the operation later this week.

Fifty-seven personnel will be involved in moving the 24-year-old Glasgow-built semi-submersible rig.

Early stage

Ocean Guardian is part of Diamond Offshore's fleet of 47 rigs, and was previously used in the North Sea.

The company expects the semi-submersible to remain off the islands until next August when it would be towed back to the Cromarty Firth.

The Cromarty Firth is used for anchoring rigs so they can be overhauled and prepared for new operations.

Major oil and gas prospects have been identified in the North Falkland Basin.

UK company Desire Petroleum estimate potential oil reserves exceeding 3.5 billion barrels and more than nine trillion cubic feet of gas.

Exploration for oil off the Falklands is at a very early stage and no commercial discoveries have been made yet, according to the Falkland Islands Government.

In 1998 six wells were drilled to the north of the islands that revealed the presence of a rich organic source rock that could hold up to 60 billion barrels of oil.

The islands has put in place "strict environmental legislation" for offshore surveying and drilling activities.

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