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North Sea Rigs Decommissioning

Monday, December 14, 2015

GMB Scotland Fear That Scotland Could Lose Out On North Sea Decommissioning Jobs After Report On Shell Seeking An Opt Out

Scotland Government should insist that oil companies remove everything from the seabed when closing down platforms unless there are pressing reasons for an agreed derogation says GMB Scotland.

GMB Scotland, the union for energy workers, commented on a Financial Times report that Shell and others are looking to regulators for an opt-out from international rules requiring the complete removal of North Sea Oil platforms that have been shut down. See notes to editors for copy of article in Financial Times dated 14th December 2015 - Shell wants rules eased to leave platform bases on North Sea bed.

Gary Smith, Acting Secretary GMB Scotland, said “GMB Scotland is concerned that the industry is calling for opt outs and that this will be seen as decommissioning on the cheap with the Scottish North Sea being left with a toxic legacy.

The Scottish Government should insist that decommissioning follow the agreed Ospar rules that are governed by 15 north-east Atlantic countries.  Widespread derogations could be bad for the environment and jobs.

GMB Scotland fears that Scotland could to lose out on £50 billion in decommissioning work with companies preferring to send the work abroad including to Norway.

GMB Scotland plans to write to MSPs this week highlighting the need for Scotland to insist that oil companies remove everything from the seabed when closing down platforms unless there are pressing reasons for an agreed derogation.”

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Contact: Jim Moohan 07885 868405 or Gary Smith 07710 618909 or 0141 332 8641 or  Dave Hulse 08791 266157 or GMB press office 07921 289880 or 07974 251 823

Notes to editors

Copy of article in Financial Times dated 14th December 2015

Shell wants rules eased to leave platform bases on North Sea bed

Cost and complexity of shifting concrete structures enormous at time of low oil prices

by: Kiran Stacey, Energy Correspondent

Three concrete structures each weighing as much as the Empire State Building are likely to be abandoned on the bed of the North Sea under plans by Shell to decommission the Brent platforms.

The oil company is set to ask regulators for an opt-out from international rules requiring the complete removal of platforms that have been shut down, people close to the process have told the Financial Times.

The rules were drawn up after a battle in the mid-1990s between Shell and environmental campaigners over where the company would dispose of the Brent Spar storage facility.

Shell is consulting experts and commercial partners about what to do with the reinforced concrete base structures, each of which rises 160m from the seabed and weighs about 300,000 tonnes. The low oil price has put companies under pressure to shut facilities as cheaply as possible.

The company said it was “considering a range of options for the Brent field” that would be submitted to the government for approval.

“One of the options being considered for the concrete gravity-based structures of three of the platforms is to leave them in place. Given these complex structures … were never designed to be refloated, the engineering challenge is immense.”

John Shepherd, a professor at Southampton University who has led a review on behalf of Shell into how to decommission the Brent complex, said the company was likely to push for the base structures to stay in place.

“There is an environmental reason to do so — each of these things is thousands of tonnes of concrete,” he said. “If you did lift them and bring them ashore, what would you do with them? The damage that these things are going to do was done when they were installed.”

160 metres

Height of each of the three concrete base structures

To leave the structures, Shell would need a derogation from the Ospar rules that are governed by 15 north-east Atlantic countries and stipulate that oil companies should remove everything from the seabed when closing down platforms.

The rules were drawn up after Shell dropped its plans to dump the Brent Spar in the deep when activists from Greenpeace, the environmental campaign group, occupied the facility.

But Greenpeace could now support the company’s plans to leave the structures in place. Doug Parr, the group’s chief scientist, said: “We understand that under some circumstances it would be environmentally undesirable to remove those.”

Shell would not be the first to secure an opt-out from the Ospar rules. Total of France and ConocoPhillips of the US have done so for their platforms. But the move does appear to be part of a broader trend in which more companies explore opt-outs and push for a permanent dilution of the rules.

Several companies, including BP, Centrica, ExxonMobil and Shell, are helping fund a studyinto the impact of leaving man-made structures in the sea. That study will publish its findings some time after 2017.

Those companies say abandoning some structures could be more environmentally friendly than trying to remove everything from below the sea. It would also be less costly, an important factor with oil trading around $40 a barrel.

They are likely to face vociferous opposition from environmental groups, however, which insist that Ospar rules should remain even if exceptions are made.

Mr Parr said: “The presumption needs to be that these wastes should be brought ashore just in the same way that we would expect any industry in the world to look after their wastes, and not just leave them where they put them.”

 

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