Pioneering Spirit : World's largest vessel sets record after 24,000-tonne oil platform lift
The Pioneering Spirit was positioned around the oil platform before the structure's topside was lifted off its supporting legs.
By Joe Tidy, Sky Correspondent
The largest vessel on the planet has successfully carried out the world's biggest lift at sea, plucking a 24,000-tonne oil rig platform from the North Sea.
The mammoth engineering task was carried out as part of the first phase of decommissioning one of the most important oilfields in the region.
Engineers took hours to position the specially-built £2.4bn Pioneering Spirit into place around the Brent Delta platform.
But it took just seconds for the powerful hydraulic system to lift the topside off its supporting legs, setting a world record in the process.
The topside is now fastened onto the 382m-long ship to be transported to a scrapping yard near Hartlepool.
In a project which will last 10 years, the firm plans to remove all four oil platforms from the Brent field in the North Sea located 115 miles northeast of the Shetlands.
The Brent field is one of the largest fields in the North Sea and is responsible for about 10% of total North Sea production during the past four decades.
At its peak, the four rigs were pumping 500,000 barrels of oil out of 154 seabed wells every day.
Decommissioning the field will be a major infrastructure project and is being closely watched by the industry because it is the biggest North Sea field to be dismantled so far, with hundreds more to follow.
It is also being closely watched by environmental groups who have already expressed concerns about Shell's planning process.
WWF Scotland and seven other environmental organisations have claimed the oil giant's proposals contain "insufficient information" and could breach international rules.
Such rules state all oil rig elements must be removed once a platform has finished work but exceptions can be made in certain circumstances.
Shell's plan, which is being considered by the international regulator, is to leave the concrete legs of three of the four decommissioned rigs on the seabed.
Lang Banks, of WWF Scotland, said: "There are very clear international rules setting out what Shell have to do in order to prove their case to leave these materials on the seabed.
"Unfortunately in this case we don't believe Shell have adhered to those rules and they're going to have to go back and think again."