An extended 60-day public consultation on recommendations to decommission the Brent oil and gas field, operated by Shell in the North Sea, has started. The programme recommends that the upper steel jacket on the Brent Alpha platform is removed, along with the topsides of the four Brent platforms, debris lying on the seabed, and the attic oil contained within the concrete storage cells of the gravity base structures.
Work to prepare for Brent decommissioning started in 2006. More than 300 expert studies have been completed and the results analysed and verified by a group of independent scientists. Shell has also engaged with around 400 stakeholders, including NGOs, academics and key interest groups, including but not limited to the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.
The heavy lift and project logistics industry has been hesitant to predict, with any certainty, the potential opportunities that could arise from the decommissioning industry. Much of the discussion to date has focused on possible developments in older offshore production regions, notably the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico. The industry downturn has also led to increased activity in certain newer locations such as Brazil.
The North Sea, particularly Scandinavian waters, could be particularly attractive to heavy lift shipping lines with crane capacities in excess of 1,000 tonnes.
However, while Shell is taking active steps to decommission some of its ageing assets, there are exploration and production (E&P) players that are preparing structures for abandonment.
A key concern for governments and regulatory bodies is the safe disposal of these structures – particularly when they cross sovereign borders. This is likely to lead to the removal, disposal and safe abandonment of platforms and infrastructure close to their location, or in the in same country.
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