After nearly 40 years of production, the Brent oilfield – which gave its name to the North Sea benchmark – is now mostly empty.
And today, Shell has announced a public consultation on its plans to decommission the Brent oil and gas field – which has produced around 10% of all UK North Sea oil and gas and generated more than £20 billion of tax revenue for the UK since production began in 1976.
Shell’s decommissioning programme for the Brent Delta platform (one of four installations located in the field) recommends that the 23,500 tonne ’topside’ of the platform is removed in one piece by a heavy-lift dedicated vessel that arrived in Rotterdam in January.
Work is underway to strengthen the topside in anticipation of the lift, which will be one of the heaviest the North Sea has ever seen. This single lift technique will substantially reduce the risk, cost and environmental impact of the operation.
There are about 1,000 skilled people offshore – including many engineers – and more people onshore, working on the decommissioning of the Brent field.
The 30-day public consultation period on plans to commence decommissioning of the Brent oil and gas field in the North Sea will start on February 16.
A brief history of Brent
The joint owners of the field are Shell U.K. Limited (50% and operator) and Esso Exploration and Production UK Limited (50%).
The Brent field – 115 miles east of Lerwick in the northern North Sea – was discovered in 1971 and started to produce in 1976. It was one of several large fields to come on stream amidst two global oil crises, in 1973 and 1979. It helped to meet a shortage of energy supply and turn the UK into a net exporter of oil.
Since 1976, Brent has produced around four billion barrels of oil equivalent – almost 10% of UK production.
At its peak in 1982, it was producing more than half a million barrels a day – enough to meet the energy needs of around half of all UK homes for that year.
In the 1990s, the life of the field was extended through redevelopment and depressurisation that meant it could produce gas rather than oil. This cost £1.2 billion and provided jobs for more than 3,000 people.
It has been ground breaking in many ways, including having the UK’s longest subsea pipeline at the time and undergoing the world’s largest oil field depressurisation in the 1990s.
Brent is one of the largest fields in the North Sea and one of the most complex to be decommissioned – with four platforms, more than 140 wells and 28 pipelines.
Shell has consulted extensively – and continues to consult – with many stakeholders since 2007 to achieve the most appropriate solution. More than 300 studies have been carried out and Shell received input from more than 400 stakeholders from 180 organisations.
BP profits slump by 20%
BP has reported lower profits and says it will cut spending on exploration because of the fall in oil prices.
Underlying profits in the final three months of 2014 were down 20% on a year earlier at £1.5 billion, while profits for the full year, profits fell by 10% to $12.1 billion.
The oil giant also also announced plans to cut capital expenditure plans by around £3 billion this year.