SHETLAND could become an industrial powerhouse after being named the best site in the UK for massive decommissioning projects.

Dales Voe, Lerwick, is the ideal location for an ultra-deep water port, according to a UK-wide feasibility by Ernst and Young.

The creation of such a facility could allow the country to compete for major projects on an international scale.

Infrastructure is already in place in Norway and, according to the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA), upgrading the Lerwick port could bring in up to £2 million for the UK economy every year..

The announcement comes as industry leaders meet on the Shetland for a key summit and Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said the news could "unlock the potential" for companies across the supply chain.

He said: "I believe investment in a deep water port will unlock the potential for Scotland to secure the largest decommissioning contracts that require the largest heavy lift vessels currently in operation in the North Sea.

"A deep water port in Scotland will bring significant benefits not only for a single location, but as a key part of an integrated and networked Scotland wide decommissioning offering, with wider opportunities realised through the supply chain."

Operated by Lerwick Port Authority, Dales Voe was previously extended to allow defunct oil rigs to be moved for dismantling.

Ernst and Young rated it the most cost-effective option for an ultra-deep water facility, and, according to Lerwick Port Authority,: "Lerwick’s proximity to oil and gas activities in the northern North Sea and Atlantic, complemented by its deep-water capabilities, mean the harbour is ideally positioned to meet the needs of the industry in the recycling and disposal of large structures."

Sandra Laurenson, chief executive of the port body, said: "Official identification of Dales Voe in a nation-wide feasibility study as the optimal location for the UK’s ultra deep-water decommissioning facility is a welcome endorsement of our belief that this is an excellent future opportunity for Shetland.

“Such a development would benefit the country, greatly strengthening capabilities in a highly-competitive international market. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government, including Highlands and Islands Enterprise, industry and others on the next steps necessary for such a significant investment to be realised.”

The OGA is holding a roundtable event on Shetland today. Operations director Gunther Newcombe said: "The OGA is working with operators to develop area plans, to the east and west of Shetland, to maximise value, and welcomes all parties contributing to build a regional vision which will maximize the value of current developments and stimulate future opportunities. Shetland could play an important role in this vision as well as becoming a decommissioning centre of expertise."

Wheelhouse added: “This year’s Programme for Government reaffirms the Scottish Government’s commitment to establishing an ultra-deep water port in Scotland. Following an extensive feasibility study, which explored a number of UK-wide options, including a number of Scottish sites, Dales Voe was identified as the optimal location with potential for a deep water facility.

“We will continue to engage with industry to measure expected demand and to ensure that investment in a deep water facility will bring the widest possible economic benefit and most substantive boost to the decommissioning supply chain in Scotland.”