Offshore oil and gas contractors have been alerted to a £15billion market for services needed to abandon nearly 5,000 platforms and subsea wells in UK waters.
A report out yesterday from industry body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) also identifies that existing technology will allow the abandonment of only two-thirds of wells without the use of a rig.
It says the rigless abandonment of the remaining one-third will be reliant on the development of new technologies and require the advancement of techniques such as well control and string tubular recovery.
The report was prepared by Acteon Group’s project-management and engineering consultancy InterAct Activity Management with the help of OGUK’s well-abandonment workgroup.
Paul Dymond, OGUK’s operations director, said: “Despite improved oil and gas recovery techniques delaying decommissioning in many cases, some projects are already going ahead, for example on the Miller, Brent and Indefatigable fields.
“This new report highlights the considerable opportunities presented by the decommissioning of North Sea infrastructure for suppliers to invest in the provision of innovative services and new technology.
“The industry needs to look very closely at how to position itself to grasp those opportunities.”
Phil Chandler, senior petroleum engineer with InterAct, said: “The report estimates that 3,725 platform wells and 910 subsea wells in the UK offshore will need to be abandoned, the majority in the next 15 years.”
Jules Schoenmakers, of Shell, who chaired the well-abandonment workgroup, said: “Many felt that a significant market opportunity for well abandonment on the UK continental shelf exists. The study now quantifies this opportunity. Operators are looking for breakthrough technologies and new approaches in this emerging business.
“The size of the market appears large enough to support many businesses and teams of specialised well-abandonment professionals for several decades.”
Alongside the study evaluating opportunities in the well-abandonment market, OGUK has updated its guidelines on issues when suspending operations for a limited period and when finally abandoning a well. Mr Schoenmakers said: “The existing guidelines on well abandonment were published in 2005 and have been well used. A workgroup comprising representatives from operators, contractors and the Health and Safety Executive has now reviewed and rewritten them with improved clarity and flow.
“The latest insights enabling efficient and sound well abandonments have been incorporated into the guidelines. The guidance is now easier to use.”