What does removal of oil and gas architecture deliver for UK society?

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

As a taxpayer it was pleasing to read recently that decommissioning costs are being reduced.

That means the public purse will pay less in rebates and will receive more income from taxes.

As a concerned climate emergency citizen, it was also heartening to see the UK committing to net zero carbon by 2050.

Attaining net zero carbon will require investment in numerous areas – energy efficiency, hydrogen, EVs, the grid, renewables, land use etc. So both decommissioning and net zero will need financial support from the public purse.

Therefore, if we could further reduce decommissioning costs, there would be more money in the public purse that could be used to support net zero.

What could deliver a significant reduction to decommissioning costs? Reduce the scope by leaving clean architecture in place as a benefit to the marine ecosystem.

What does removal of oil and gas architecture deliver for UK society?

Societal benefit – no, we have invested in an activity that has no long term benefit. There will be no onshore dismantling and recycling jobs bonanza and any jobs only last for the duration of the activity. What use to society is the end product of returning the seabed to sand and silt?

Environmental benefit – no, we are ripping out marine ecosystems that have been built up over decades. Furthermore, the removal process is energy intensive resulting in more carbon and other harmful emissions.

Economic benefit – no, we have used the public purse to support an activity that provides little return. For example, we have not built a factory that will provide long term jobs and a useful societal product, or built a bridge to serve a community and its economy.  Decommissioning is an economic drain with no legacy.

As a taxpayer, I frequently ask what is the underpinning reason for removal? The response from the authorities is that we are bound by international agreements. Isn’t it time we evidence tested whether the international agreements are in the UK’s best interest?

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