OPINION: Where’s the evidence for removal?

Tom Baxter, senior lecturer in chemical engineering at Aberdeen University.
Tom Baxter, senior lecturer in chemical engineering at Aberdeen University.

The Greenpeace response to my criticism of their decommissioning written evidence given to the Commons Select Committee only served to reinforce my views.

Greenpeace have a blinkered, unsubstantiated position that is not evidence based. Let me make clear though that my aims in this debate are not to save the oil and gas industry money; it is to ensure that taxpayers’ money is being well spent. The role of the taxpayer is key to my position. Greenpeace either don’t see this or are conveniently ignoring it. They state that ‘we agree that the costs should not be borne by the taxpayer’. I have never expressed that view. I don’t know who they are agreeing with – it’s not me. The fact of the matter is that the public purse is up for around half the cost. Greenpeace stating the oil industry should pay more is hypothetical. I am dealing with the facts, not how Greenpeace would like the tax framework to be.

Greenpeace support OSPAR 98/3 which they say was further ratified a few months ago. What is that justifying? It assumes that the legislation is serving the nation. I want to see the evidence that underpins removal and returning the seabed to fishing activities as being good for the environment, society and the economy before billions of taxpayers’ money is used. Can Greenpeace please show the taxpayer the scientific evidence supporting removal?

Long term risks are mentioned. If the infrastructure is left uncontaminated with a retained exclusion zone can Greenpeace quantify what they mean by long term risks?

Contributions to the circular economy are mentioned. I can’t disagree with that but is it really significant when compared with other decommissioning activities?

They state that greenhouse gas emissions from decommissioning works cannot be viewed in isolation from those that have arisen from fossil fuel exploitation historically produced by the asset being decommissioned. I find this position baffling from a green organisation. Historical emissions are what they are, but because they have been very large we do not have to concern ourselves about future smaller emissions – is that what is being said?  Greenpeace aslo made no comment on the decommissioning noise impact on marine life.

There is one area where Greenpeace and myself are fully aligned – the massive threats posed by anthropogenic global warming. I was therefore surprised that there was no response to my main position: ‘To provide evidence to challenge OSPAR 98/3, would Grrenpaeace support an independent, scientific based comparison, using full cost accounting techniques, which analyses the current plans for decommissioning against one of make the offshore architecture clean and inert, leave in-situ and use the money saved to support green energy and other decarbonising options?’.

Over to you Greenpeace.

Tom Baxter, Senior Lecturer, Chemical Engineering, Aberdeen University