The challenges and opportunities of North Sea decommissioning come under the spotlight at a three-day conference getting under way in St Andrews tonight.
Organised by industry bodies Decom North Sea and Oil and Gas UK, the event is expected to attract hundreds of delegates from the UK, Norway, the Netherlands and the United States.
Decommissioning North Sea oil and gas facilities is projected to cost £40.6billion over the next 25 years.
The week’s conference is being run under the banner, Delivering the Future Together, with Gordon Ballard, Schlumberger UK vice-president industry affairs and chairman, delivering tomorrow’s keynote speech.
Richard Heard, managing director of Aberdeen-based decommissioning consultant Strategic Decom, told the Press and Journal yesterday the event would highlight how the “tides are changing” for the North Sea oil and gas industry.
Decommissioning was not the end of an era for oil and gas production but a major part of the late-life phase of an asset, he said.
He added: “Decommissioning is an exciting chapter in the historyof the North Sea and demands the same ingenuity as the first years of oil and gas called for 50 years ago.
“Some of the greatest engineering challenges of our generation are fixed to the seabed, waiting to be tackled by the brightest minds.
“Blazing the decommissioning trail could set the UK apart as a pioneer and establish itself as an international leader in the field.”
Mr Heard said the industry had a responsibility to show that plans being made for decommissioning were cost-effective.
“This was underpinned by the Wood Review earlier this year, which set out five actions focused on decommissioning, including increasing collaboration and reducing decommissioning costs.
“As an industry we should understand the magnitude of this job and be excited by it.
“We have been in a buoyant mood ever since oil and gas was discovered on the UK continental shelf. Let’s continue that for generations to come.
“We have a job to do – decommissioning not only 500 structures but also 10,000 miles of associated pipeline.
“Decommissioning is a specialism and combines engineering and design with science and safety with politics.
“In a decade’s time, it will demand proven experience. Those who have worked on the rigs for 10 to 15 years know them inside out and are arguably the best qualified to take them apart. These people can become pioneers.”