Shell’s decommissioning plans another Brent Spar PR disaster?

Shell’s decommissioning plans another Brent Spar PR disaster?

Shell is preparing to start the decommissioning of its four gigantic oil platforms in the famous Brent field in the Scottish part of the North Sea – a huge undertaking. Unfortunately, write Professor Alex Russell of the Oil Industry Finance Association and Professor Peter Strachan of Robert Gordon University, the company plans to dismantle only the topsides of the platforms. It wants to leave the Eiffel-tower sized legs, including 64 giant storage cells at the base of these structures, in place. They will take hundreds of years to disintegrate. Russell and Strachan call on the UK government and other North Sea governments to call a halt to these plans. They also demand that the Scottish government will have a say in the project.piattaforma-petrolifera-shell-brent

Fancy a night or two in a police cell? If so, change your car oil, mix it up with mud, add some carcinogenic radioactive sludge and a menu of other waste products, wrap it in concrete, and then dump it in the North Sea. And when you are undergoing questioning by Mi5 to ensure you are not a terrorist, tell them the concrete is thick enough to last 1000 years and there’s nothing to worry about!

Sounds bizarre enough to form a story line for a new series for David Brent, star of the BBC’s iconic comedy the Office? Alas, fact can be stranger than fiction. For this is essentially what Shell is planning to do in the North Sea – but they might be able to get away with it.

“Brent” of course is also the North Sea oil industry’s iconic field and the price of Brent crude is a recognised international benchmark for oil. Shell has started on the decommissioning of the Brent Delta platform, one of four Brent Fieldplatforms. Alpha, Bravo and Charlie will be decommissioned later. Delta has seen preparatory work, although the real decommissioning process has been delayed to 2017, according to Reuters.

The decommissioning is a gigantic project. Across the Brent field 154 wells will have to be securely plugged with cement after removing the well control equipment. This process has been completed for Delta, which ceased production on 31 December 2011.

On its website Shell has explained in some detail, and justified to its own satisfaction, how it intends to handle the multibillion dollar decommissioning of the Brent installations and pipelines. In essence, the topsides of the platforms will be removed and transported down and past the east coast of Scotland to Able UK in Teesside where they will be brought ashore for dismantling, scrapping and recycling. It is reassuring to see this work is staying in the UK yet irksome it is not being done closer to Shetland where the vast profits from exploiting the UK’s resources in the Brent field were earned.

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Source: Energy Post

Date: September 2016

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