North Sea Decommissioning

Shell and Exxon’s Brent Oilfield Decommission Shows How Industry Hits Communities and Environment to the Very End

A diagram of the Brent oil field infrastructure

The North Sea oil and gas industry is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to emitting dangerous greenhouse gases.

Shell and Exxon are packing up and moving out of the famous Brent oil and gas field in the North Sea. As a final hurrah, almost 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be emitted as four platforms are dismantled and parts are either left to erode in the ocean or moved onshore and recycled.

That’s equal to about five percent of the UK's North Sea industry’s annual emissions — from the start to very end, the Brent oil field continues to contribute to climate change.

But emitting hundreds of thousands of tonnes of dangerous greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, nitrous dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere is not the only environmental danger that comes with plugging and abandoning the wells.

Clean Energy VS Clean Seabed: Should Oil and Gas Companies Have to Leave the North Sea as They Found It?

north sea oil rig

Op-Ed By Tom Baxter, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Aberdeen.

The principle is simple – if oil and gas companies are going to put lots of steel and concrete in the ocean to extract fossil fuels from the seabed, they should return it to its initial state once they are done.

So it’s understandable and entirely predictable that Scotland’s environmental NGOs including WWF and Greenpeace disagreed with Shell’s current plans to decommission its Brent oilfield. Those plans include leaving large sections of the concrete bases of its platforms in place, instead of removing all the drilling equipment from the sea bed.

The comparative societal, environment and economic assessments undertaken by oil and gas companies to justify their decommissioning address options from full removal to leave in place. The requirements of the associated marine legislations are also a vital element of the analysis; particularly the OSPAR Directives.

Shell Invents ‘Business Drivers’ as Excuse to Avoid Inconvenient North Sea Decommissioning Options, Green Groups Claim

A drilling  rig with a boat nearby

Shell has failed to properly assess all options for plugging and abandoning its North Sea wells in the famous Brent oilfield, a group of NGOs has argued.

Eight green groups including WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust have criticised Shell’s plan to leave parts of its drilling rigs in the North Sea, saying the company has failed to be transparent about its recommendations.

There was a significant “lack of quantitative data” in the proposal, with the plans relying on “subjective qualitative judgements by experts, including Shell’s own engineers,” the groups’ 20-page response said.

Oil Giants Declare Climate Leadership, Immediately Find New Places to Drill

Offshore oil rigs in a row

Oil giants Shell, Statoil and BP have been awarded exploration licenses for new areas of the North Sea, just weeks after declaring their commitment to tackling climate change.

The UK Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) awarded 25 licenses as part of its 29th licensing round. The 29th round was the first to focus on under-explored ‘frontier’ areas around Rockall Basin, the mid-North Sea and around East Shetland. 

Statoil received six licences to explore around East Shetland. Five licences were awarded in partnership with BP, and one in partnership with ExxonMobil.

Shell was also awarded two licences, partnering with BP for one.

Is the UK Prepared for the Environmental Risks of a New Era in the North Sea?

North Sea oil rig off the coast

For the North Sea oil and gas industry, it must seem like Christmas comes in March. The chancellor’s budget announcements for the past five years have given increasingly generous financial incentives to ensure every last drop of oil is extracted from the rapidly depleting North Sea fields.

But at what cost?

Around 470 platforms and 5,000 wells are due to be decommissioned from the North Sea, according to industry body Oil and Gas UK. The government is currently consulting on plans to decommission seven projects in the North Sea, including Shell and Exxon’s famous Brent oilfield. Many of these sit near or in environmentally significant sites.

North Sea Oil Industry Asked the Government for More Help to Drill and Decommission — Got Both

Chancellor Philip Hammond

The government has announced more financial help for the North Sea oil and gas industry.

Chancellor Philip Hammond today announced plans to establish a panel of experts to decide on the best way to squeeze every last drop out of the region’s oil fields in his first and last Spring budget.

The additional measures will go on top of around £2.3 billion the industry received in subsidies from the government over the past three years.

How a Big Oil Lobbying Network Makes Billions from Taxpayers as North Sea Wells Run Dry

A diagram of the North Sea oil network with Big Oil and Big Four companies

Big Oil companies have made billions from exploiting the North Sea’s oil and gas resources. But as it gets harder to squeeze a profit out of the drying fields, they are increasingly asking the taxpayer to fund their polluting activities, all while making billions for their shareholders.

Since 2015, the Treasury has given the industry tax breaks worth £2.3 billion. This is despite BP, Shell and Total making after tax profits of $10 billion in 2016 alone.

Prison, Hotel, Storage Depot? What To Do With an Abandoned North Sea Oilfield

North sea oil rig at night

The famous Brent oil field is dead, but is it buried? After ten years of study, Shell has found that the once-productive field, sucked dry of its resources, is not all that useful after the oil has run out.

After several decades of oil extraction, Shell now has the challenge of cleaning up its debris. As it prepares to decommission four rigs from its Brent oil field, Shell considered various ways to give its North Sea facilities a second lease of life: clean energy, fake reefs, hotels and carbon capture were all thrown into the ring as possible ways to reincarnate the rigs.

Shell looked at 35 alternative ways to put the tired rigs to use, which it eventually narrowed down to ten more serious considerations. But in the end, Shell decided to remove most of the structure, while leaving other bits to crumble on the seabed over time.

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