Royal Dutch Shell is to recommit itself to the North Sea as it prepares to dismantle the colossal oil rigs in the historic Brent oilfield, heralding hopes of hundreds of decommissioning jobs.
The oil major will today submit its decommissioning plans to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – including a controversial plan to leave the base of the four giant structures in the sea bed – ending a decade-long project on how to safely retire the ageing field.
The Anglo-Dutch oil major, which last week sold off more than £2.4bn of assets to a private-equity backed oil firm, will say it wants to remain a core part of the North Sea’s ongoing output, pointing to the 20bn barrels of oil and gas which can be recovered in the region, and saying it intends to play a part in developing some of that.
The work to decommission Brent could take another 10 years, turning a page on the oil and gas field which has been a cornerstone of the UK’s multibillion pound oil and gas industry for more than four decades.
At its peak in the early 1980s, Brent produced 500,000 barrels of oil a day, and over its lifetime produced four billion barrels of oil – almost 10pc of the oil and gas produced in the UK sector of the North Sea. But after 40 years Shell is preparing to retire Brent’s four oil platforms amid some of the most hostile working environments in the world.
Sinead Lynch, Shell’s UK country chairman, writing for The Daily Telegraph, explains: “There is no easy solution to this technical challenge.”
Shell will apply for an exemption to international rules which call for the entire structure to be removed from the seabed. Instead Shell will make a case for keeping the “legs” of the rigs in place, which it says will be safer and pose minimal environmental impact.
Ms Lynch says the “legs” were not designed to be removed, and asserts that the safety risks linked to removing them outweighs the environmental benefit.
The convention requiring Shell to completely remove the rig from the seabed was put in place in the 1990s to protect the north-east Atlantic seabed after a protests against Shell’s plans to decommission Brent Spar, a floating oil storage facility, by towing it out into the deep waters of the Atlantic and sinking it.
Shell’s plans will also outline how it intends to secure 154 oil wells and remove the tops of its four towering platforms, which each measure almost 300m from the seabed to the tips of the “topside” installations.
Shell also needs to recover debris left on the seabed while extracting the oil trapped in storage cells.
“All this could sustain hundreds of jobs. And the skills and innovative technologies developed, along with the experiences gained, could be shared and exported as other ageing oil and gas platforms wind down production in other parts of the world,” says Ms Lynch.
Just as Aberdeen has become a centre of oil and gas industry expertise that has been globally exported, decommissioning now offers further commercial opportunities, she adds.
By Jillian Ambrose
Source: The Telegraph
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