An Aberdeen academic has said arguments for removing or leaving behind North Sea infrastructure need to be based on “good science”.
Prof Richard Neilson, of Aberdeen University, insisted he supported the overarching aim of Ospar to protect the environment, but said simply removing everything was not necessarily the answer.
Ospar is a pan-European body which was set-up to protect the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic and which takes its name from the Oslo and Paris Conventions.
Under Ospar rules, installations must be removed in their entirety once they reach the end of their production cycle.
However, exceptions can be made if it is proven that removing infrastructure would do the environment more harm than good.
In its programme for decommissioning the Brent field, Shell has asked for permission to leave the giant concrete platform legs in place.
Prof Neilson said: “The overall premise of Ospar is good but there needs to be a view based on whether removing everything is the best thing for the environment.
“The jury is out on whether 100% removal is the best thing.
“Ospar is trying to protect environment, which is the right thing to do, so there is no problem with that, but some infrastructure has been there for 40 years and has generated an ecosystem around it.”
Prof Neilson is involved delivering Aberdeen University’s MSc in decommissioning.
The course teaches students how biology, law and economics impact companies’ decisions about when and how to decommission their assets.
Prof Neilson said the key criteria for decision making for decommissioning, and especially derogation − or leaving in place − are safety, technical feasibility, environmental, societal and economic.
Lecturers who are practitioners from the UK energy department, operators, service and consultancy companies contribute to the MSc.
Prof Neilson said the north-east of Scotland was well set up to contribute to the decommissioning market in the field of subsea services.
But he said the UK could not challenge the Netherlands when it comes to heavy lift vessel capabilities.