The UK Government recently published updated guidance on Oil and gas: offshore environmental legislation (20 March, 2020). It was a reminder that the OSPAR decommissioning regulations are not consistent with the UK’s Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.
It was the beginning of an exciting week when Greenpeace announced they had sent activists to the middle of the North Sea to climb the remains of Shell’s Brent platforms, brandishing signs of “clean up your mess”.
A boss at Shell has insisted that leaving the huge concrete legs of the Brent platforms at sea was the “right thing to do”.
Germany’s environment ministry has said a “compromise” on Shell’s Brent decommissioning plans may be possible but leaving any oil remains is “not acceptable”.
Germany has said a special meeting on Shell’s Brent decommissioning plans will be the “litmus test” for a convention to protect Europe’s marine environment.
Greenpeace said last night that protestors would occupy two North Sea oil platforms for “as long as needed” to get their message across.
Shell submitted plans in 2017 to leave the giant legs of three of its four Brent platforms and some other infrastructure in the North Sea.
Greenpeace has announced it is carrying out “peaceful protests” at Shell’s Brent field in the UK North Sea.
The German government has made a formal objection to Shell’s plans to decommission the Brent field in the North Sea.
Currently, more than a third of global oil and gas production comes from offshore fields. The exploration, development, construction, production, logistics, maintenance and decommissioning operations of these fields are carried out with maritime units, including offshore vessels, installations (fixed, floating and subsea) and pipelines. For many countries, the offshore industry is contributing significantly to the national and global economy.
The mature phase of oil and gas operations on the UK continental shelf is proving to be more complex than we could have imagined even a few short years ago. It has long been recognised that, once a reservoir was depleted and the infrastructure associated with it redundant, decommissioning would be required in accordance with the UK’s international obligations. But it is now clear that, even as some reservoirs reach that point, new discoveries are being made and their development may depend on having access to existing infrastructure which otherwise would be decommissioned. The complex decisions involved in balancing the needs of new and future projects with the expectations of companies who want to decommission infrastructure is a matter for the Oil and Gas Authority working in conjunction with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Any industrial or societal endeavor should be subject to a sustainability assessment and decommissioning is no different. The key metrics for the UK’s sustainable future are contained within the Government’s Sustainability Indicator reports published by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). There are 35 topics. They are categorised under the three pillars of sustainability; people, planet and profit.