The announcement comes following the recent decision to delay the lifting and removal of the Shell Brent Delta platform off the coast of Shetland by a year – with the reason cited as commissioning issues surrounding the massive Korean-built lifting vessel.
Last week, the manager of Dundee port announced that he expects the decommissioning industry to bring around 1,500 jobs to the city over the next three to four years.
The University of Aberdeen in partnership with Robert Gordon University (RGU) are developing a suite of joint Masters degrees, and the new programme – thought to be the first of its kind in the world – will focus on the key aspects associated with decommissioning such as engineering, project management, business, law and health, and safety and environment.
The collapse in the global oil price and diminishing natural reserves have contributed to some platforms being retired sooner than anticipated, especially in the North Sea.
The physical process of taking offshore platforms out of service safely and securely is complex, sensitive and technically challenging, and a range of legal and regulatory issues also need to be considered.
There are also obvious environmental considerations, highlighted by the recent grounding of a rig off the Isle of Lewis.
In addition, decommissioning represents a significant opportunity to create jobs and global influence, as outlined in the Oil and Gas Authority’s Decommissioning Strategy published in June 2016.
Professor Ekaterina Pavlovskaia from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Engineering said: “Some may ask if this course signifies an acceptance that oil and gas is coming to an end in the North Sea but that is not the case. Safe and efficient decommissioning of these platforms will benefit the industry for many years to come.”
The MSc programme is being developed in conjunction with leading industry experts and is expected to appeal to a broad range of applicants, from those already working in the oil industry to those wishing to upskill or retrain. The course is scheduled to begin in September 2017.
Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Robert Gordon University said: “Aberdeen is known for oil and gas expertise and it is important that we harness the opportunities presented by this trend, ensuring that there is a pool of trained talent available for the evolving needs of the industry.
Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Aberdeen University, added: “There is an increasing need for expertise in this area and with Aberdeen being the energy capital of Europe, it makes sense that our University train the next generation of decommissioning experts, as we already do for so many other areas of the industry.”