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ProjectsOGP tracks decommissioning
Thursday, Sep 22, 2016
It’s like hanging on by your fingertips to a relationship that has long past its sell-buy date, because it’s familiar and ‘safe’. This, instead of leaping into the unpredictability of the unknown, is the attitude of many operators who are focused on prolonging production from their mature assets.

However, for many the break-up has been inevitable, the industry has always known that it would eventually have to decommission aging platforms. But this realisation has been sped up due to the plummet of the oil price from highs of US$115 in 2014, to scraping below US$40 in 2016. Operators have been left with a hard decision; keep producing and receive less in return, or start a new era and enter the decommissioning phase.

Between now and the mid-2050s, around 470 platforms, 5,000 wells, 10,000km of pipelines and 40,000 concrete blocks will have to be removed from the North Sea. A daunting task, but with this brings jobs, expertise and the development or even the introduction of new technologies. Decommissioning is forever being thought of as the thorn in the side of the oil and gas industry, but maybe it’s time to change this perception and really see it blossom.

Our project tracking database, ProjectsOGP now covers a range of decommissioning projects. One of which is the Brent Oil Field, which in its lifetime, has generated over £20 billion in tax revenues for the UK Government and provided a significant amount of the UK’s oil and gas. The Operator, Shell, began the long-term planning of the decommissioning of the field in 2006. Now Shell plans to start dismantling its nearly 40-year-old Brent Delta platform located at the field in the North Sea in 2017.

Brent Delta, as tall as the Eiffel Tower, is the first of four Brent platforms to be decommissioned and one of the first large-scale projects to dismantle a depleted North Sea oil field. The start of the complex work, which has been planned for 10 years, has been delayed after it took longer than expected to equip the specialist vessel, the Pioneering Spirit. The enormous vessel will transport the 25,000-tonne topside off the platform to Hartlepool harbour where it will be taken apart. Making this the heaviest lift ever attempted in the North Sea.

The development of such a vessel is an achievement in itself, as it is the length of 5 jumbo jets. A clear example of the innovation that decommissioning can bring. However, this innovation cannot take place without a skilled workforce. It has been estimated that since 2014, 65,000 oil and gas jobs have been lost in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. This figure is expected to rise by the end of 2016, with the total number of job losses within the UK oil and gas sector expected to reach 120,000. The argument here is we simply cannot afford to ignore decommissioning and the jobs it may bring to our economy.

This is a new direction for the North Sea; the UK government has pledged £250 million for Aberdeen to expand the harbour, which will allow the city to compete for decommissioning work. This figure may be a drop in the ocean but it also brings with it the idea of a new industry. An industry where Scotland can use its already talented offshore workforce, to become world class in advanced subsea decommissioning technologies.

About ProjectsOGP

ProjectsOGP has over 5,000 Oil, Gas and Petrochemical projects. Our database follows the lifecycle of each project, right through to the decommissioning stage. The project tracker comes with built-in e-mail alerts and allows you to extract project data into PDF or Excel form. ProjectsOGP will highlight business opportunities and keep you ahead of the competition.

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