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Two renowned oil industry experts from Scotland have vigorously criticized Shell’s plans to leave major parts of four platforms in the Brent field standing when it decommissions the aged field that gave the name to the most widely used international price benchmark.
Professors Alex Russell and Peter Strachan, respectively chairman of the Scottish Oil Association and researcher at the Robert Gordon University, noted in a paper that the concrete structures will take hundreds of years to disintegrate and represent a potential hazard that local people will have to pay for, rather than the field operator.
The structures in question include platform legs – gravity-base structures – and the storage cells located within them. The storage cells serve to collect water and other fluids produced in the process of oil and gas extraction. The authors of the report, however, acknowledge that Shell has made the effort to clean the cells as best as possible.
The international oil major will start the decommissioning of the Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta platforms after it gets the official go-ahead from the UK government. Specific plans for the decommissioning procedure should be filed with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department by the end of the year—another point of contention for the two experts.
According to Russell and Strachan, the decision about the decommissioning of the Brent field should depend on the approval of the Scottish government, not just the central government in London. Also, the decommissioning of the platforms should take place in Scotland, as close to Brent as possible, rather than anywhere else, as “the future decommissioning of topsides being undertaken outside Scotland smacks of rubbing salt into the wound.”
The paper’s authors also caution against the effect that a decision in favor of leaving the GBSs in place would have on the overall policy of the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, or OSPAR.
OSPAR is the authority that will make the ultimate decision about the Brent decommissioning, and as Shell has pointed out, it has already granted other offshore platform operators approval for leaving GBSs in place after the decommissioning of the platform to which they belong. Russell and Strachan argue that this kind of approval turns its own policy on its head, with the exception becoming the norm.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.