One of the North Sea’s most iconic pieces of oil and gas infrastructure arrived in a murky Hartlepool last night after more than 40 years offshore.
Shell’s Brent Delta topside was delivered to Able UK’s yard, where it will be dismantled and recycled.
The huge, twin-hulled Pioneering Spirit vessel set a world lifting record on Friday when it picked the 24,000-tonne topside up off its three concrete legs in the North Sea.
The ship sailed to Teesside where it put the structure on a barge for transfer onto a purpose-built quay, a process expected to be completed in about a week.
Duncan Manning, Shell’s Brent decommissioning asset manager, said he felt “nervous anticipation” at the prospect of seeing the culmination of years of work.
Mr Manning said: “It has taken many years to get to this stage, so after all the hours we’ve put in it’s good to see the result and to reflect on our efforts.”
He said the Brent Delta experience had taught Shell an important lesson about lifting preparations.
The Delta lift job was held up to allow the Pioneering Spirit’s lifting beams to be strengthened, while the topside’s underbelly also had to be reinforced.
Mr Manning said: “We’ve learned about the preparation of the Brent topsides, which were not designed to be lifted from underneath. We had to strengthen Delta with 200tonnes of steel.”
“The lifting onto the barge and the final movement to the yard have gone to schedule, so it would be difficult to improve on that part.
“The focus for us is on preparing the platforms and making that process more efficient and cost effective.”
The Brent Bravo topside will be prepared for lifting over the coming months, he said.
Delta was installed in the Brent field, 115 miles north-east of Shetland, in 1976.
The field itself, which gives its name to the benchmark price indicator, has pumped out around three billion barrels of oil equivalent and counting.
Shell started planning to decommission the field in 2006.
Delta ceased production in 2011, followed by the Alpha and Bravo platforms in 2014.
The last platform, Charlie, is still producing, but will be retired in the next few years.
Shell’s plan for removing Delta was approved by the UK Government in 2015.
The firm’s decommissioning programme for the remaining Brent field infrastructure was submitted earlier this year.
Shell has asked the government for permission to leave the giant concrete legs of three of the four platforms behind, much to the annoyance of environmental groups.
Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, Doug Parr, said yesterday that Brent Delta’s arrival in Hartlepool was the “legacy of years of campaigning that have brought about international rules protecting our marine environment from discarded oil rigs”.
Mr Parr also said Shell should take full responsibility for the clean-up of the remaining Brent field infrastructure.