Lights, camera, action – the BBC in the North Sea

Two BBC film crews have visited Maersk Oil’s Gryphon production site in the North Sea this summer, highlighting the important reserves of hydrocarbons in the area and the business’s expertise in extracting it safely.

Installation Gryphon
The Gryphon acts as a production facility for the oil fields below the sea bed.

Maersk Oil in the North Sea

  • Maersk Oil is present in the Danish, UK and Norwegian sectors of the North Sea
  • In the UK sector, new production is expected to start at Golden Eagle in the fourth quarter, in which Maersk Oil has a non-operated interest of 31.56%
  • It is a partner in one of Norway’s biggest discoveries, Johan Sverdrup, from which first oil is expected in late 2019

They may be in the middle of the North Sea, but the workers on Maersk Oil’s Gryphon installation are getting used to visiting film crews.

Hosting a BBC crew for the second time this summer, the Gryphon floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel – some 175 miles (280 kilometers) northeast of Aberdeen – is showing Maersk Oil’s expertise in complicated geology and harsh environments to the world.

Poster image
Glenn Corr, director of Maersk Oil in the UK about the Gryphon installation in the North Sea. 1:16

“We’re proud to showcase our operations,” says Glenn Corr, director of Maersk Oil in the UK. “It is a good opportunity to demonstrate Maersk Oil’s capabilities and Gryphon shows how an FPSO works and how you produce oil and gas. It’s also a story of growth because of investment in the area.”

Speaking on the bridge of the Gryphon, a 260-metre vessel that first produced oil in 1993, Corr looks out over a benign North Sea that is a far cry from winter storms when waves can reach as high as the helipad, as thrusters maintain stability and keep the installation safe despite the rough weather.

It is the same view that greeted BBC economics editor Robert Peston, making “Scotland: For Richer or Poorer?” about its independence referendum, and now Iain Stewart, a geology professor filming “Planet Oil”, a survey of the industry and what the future holds.

BBC Stewart
There is still plenty more oil out there. BBC presenter Iain Stewart prepares to take a sample.

Building the world’s largest ship

  • Maersk has worked with the Discovery Channel on a series about the Triple-E
  • The programmes go behind the scenes and into shipyards to explore the entire construction process
  • For more see

The Gryphon FPSO

  • First produced in 1993 and is capable of storing 540,000 barrels of oil
  • 260 metres long and 41 metres wide, it has seabed pipelines of a combined length of more than 36,000 metres
  • Current output is 28,000-29,000 bpd and production from Gryphon is expected to continue into the next decade

Potentially screening late this year or in 2015, “Planet Oil” will look at the early days of the oil industry in the US, continuing through the Middle East and arriving at the North Sea to consider what next.

“There’s still a lot more oil to be recovered. Are we running on empty? And the answer is no, there is still plenty more out there,” says Stewart, the presenter.

The North Sea is considered a mature basin but still contains considerable reserves. Techniques such as horizontal wells and water injection technology are needed to access some of the deposits and extract them economically.

“The Gryphon is a nice visual thing – the physical size of the ship and the new technologies that are coming on stream,” Stewart adds.

BBC film 2
The crew's families at home will have a chance to see how life is on board.

For Russell Shand, who runs the installation, the BBC’s interest is a great opportunity for the 108 workers on board – though it takes plenty of hard work to set things up and ensure safety at all times.

“It’s a case of the logistics, making sure they can get their shots while fitting with our safety rules and procedures. The crew appreciate the footage, and families at home have the chance to see what they do. It shows the guys at home how big this operation is – my own parents were like, wow,” Shand says.

“The people on here are really quite proud of their asset. It’s a great place to work.”

BBC film 1
Maersk Oil's Gryphon installation has hosted two BBC filming crews this summer.