An extended 60-day public consultation on Shell’s plan to abandon most of the sub-surface iron-work on the Brent oil and gas field platforms in the North Sea has begun.
The field, located 115 miles north-east of the Shetland Islands has produced around three billion barrels of oil equivalent since production commenced in 1976, which is almost 10% of UK production.
The Brent decommissioning programme recommends that the upper steel jacket on the Brent Alpha platform is removed, along with the topsides of the four Brent platforms and the oil contained within the concrete storage cells of the gravity base structures.
But Shell wants to abandon the three gravity base structures – Brent Alpha footings, the sediment contained within the concrete storage cells of the gravity base structures (Brent Bravo, Brent Charlie and Brent Delta), and the drill cuttings piles – in situ.
While the visible ‘tip of the oil well ice-berg’ – ie the above-sea platform – will be removed, the vast bulk of the ice-berg will remain abandoned on the sea-bed.
The motivation behind the Shell is simply financial – ie to cut its decommissioning costs.
This is a ‘half-way’ house to ‘full site clearance’ required under the OSPAR convention following Shell’s PR disaster over its botched Brent-Spar ‘dumping’ plan 20 years ago.
After an anti-dumping protest led by Greenpeace activists, Shell later towed the Brent Spar to Norway for dismantling and admitted it had ‘learned lessons..’