Shell draws up ‘halfway-house’ decommissioning plan for Brent oil field platforms

decommissioning oil rigsGiant oil explorer Shell intends to leave the ‘legs’ of its three Brent field platforms in the North Sea instead of bringing them onshore for full decommissioning.

Shell has begun preparations to decommission Brent Delta and will seek an exemption from the UK government to leave the legs on safety grounds.

Each leg is made of concrete and steel and weighs about 300,000 tonnes.

A Shell spokesman in London explained: “Following extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, Shell intends to submit a comprehensive decommissioning plan for the Brent oil and gas field to DECC before the end of 2016. 

“As part of this plan, Shell recommends that the gravity base structures (aka ‘legs’) of three of the Brent platforms should be left in place. 

“Meanwhile, work is continuing to prepare the Brent Delta platform ahead of its topsides being removed in a single lift operation, which we expect to take place in 2017.”

Environmental activists protested against Shell's 1991 plan to dump the Brent Spar at sea.
Environmental activists protested against Shell’s 1991 plan to dump the Brent Spar at sea.

‘Green’ environmental lobby groups are wary of this new plan from Shell after the global furore 25 years ago over the Brent Spar. This was a N. Sea oil storage and tanker loading buoy in the Brent field which Shell initially planned to sink in deep waters off Shetland.

In 1991, Greenpeace organised a highly-effective worldwide, high-profile media campaign against this plan and protestors occupied Brent Spar for more than three weeks.

In the face of public and political opposition in (including a widespread boycott of Shell service stations) Shell then abandoned its plans to dispose of Brent Spar at sea – whilst continuing to stand by its claim that this was the safest option, both from an environmental and an industrial health and safety point of view.

The Brent Spar was later towed to Norway and used in the construction of new harbour facilities near Stavanger.

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