Updated: Jul 11, 2018
If the oil and gas industry starts decommissioning earlier and gets a pipeline of projects together, it will enable it to retain expertise, build up a supply chain and organisational capability – and reduce a future decommissioning bottleneck.
The UK has a long history of extracting energy resources from the North Sea but the next key challenges is how to solve the problem of dismantling, removing and disposing of the installations in compliance with tough legal obligations.
It is important to understand that the industry has relatively limited experience of decommissioning. Whilst there have been some notable examples of decommissioning projects, these have been the exception rather than the rule.
A number of floating structures were decommissioned from the UK North Sea in the 1990s, as well as some small steel platforms. The Camelot CB platform was approved for removal in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the platform was removed – Some ten years later! The Camelot CB structure was only 600 tonnes.
The Frigg Field on the other hand, was the first major decommissioning task, not only for the UK, but for Norway as well. Field straddles the border between the two economic zones, with six structures offshore. MCP-01 was decommissioned alongside Frigg, both being operated by Total.
In the early 2000s, Total could clearly see that that platforms would need to be removed and started taking action relatively early on.
In 1992, MCP-01 had been re-configured to allow it to be operated as a “not-normally-manned” platform, and in 2004 and 2005 the pipelines entering and leaving MCP-01 were bypassed, making decommissioning possible.
In 2005, lifting operations started, with Frigg having been cold for only a year. But it was a slow process; on all of these lifts, the modules had to be removed one at a time, with dozens of lifts for each platform.
These were structures not designed to be removed – A lot of the topsides consisted of what was little more than some very large containers; no one had really thought over the lifetime of the field that running a few pipes or cables here or there would be a problem. This led to a huge amount of preparation work in order to prepare for the heavy lifting work.
Moving forward to 2017, there are very few decommissioning projects going on, and all the expertise, organisational capability and supplier capacity built up on the Frigg project and on many of the smaller decommissioning efforts that have gone on are basically being lost.
There are great possibilities to reduce the overall decommissioning cost for the industry if companies start, say, decommissioning at least one major platform every two years right now.
This would enable the industry to retain expertise from one project to the next, and build up organisational capability and supply chains. If companies want to keep producing a few more years to get a few last drops out of their reservoirs, then it may make sense to switch the production to subsea equipment and decommission the platform. There are even possibilities to re-used some of this subsea furniture when the wells are decommissioned.
Let PetroMall help you and your organisation reduce late life management and decommissioning costs by building up organisational capability, bringing in established good practice and using new technology. Contact us though info@PetroMall.org