Marathon denies Brae Alpha decommissioning has been accelerated following major gas leak on N. Sea platform

Marathon Oil Brae Alpha rig
Marathon Oil Brae Alpha rig

The London Times has reported that an American oil major is accelerating plans to shut down one of Britain’s most important North Sea oilfields because of a major gas leak – which caused extensive (and costly) damage to one of its N. Sea oil platforms.

The article in the regional newspaper said that Marathon Oil has submitted plans to shut down its giant Brae Field 168 miles northeast of Aberdeen after suffering a series of gas leaks on the ageing production platform.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the leak is ongoing.

See also: –

Aberdeen MPs demand answers on Brae Alpha gas rupture and N. Sea safety – 11 Jan 2016


Brae Alpha gas leak sparks N. Sea emergency man-down and ignites union fears over ‘a Piper Alpha disaster’ – 29 Dec 2015 –


Brae Alpha gas leak sparks N. Sea emergency man-down and ignites union fears over ‘a Piper Alpha disaster’

This issue goes straight to the heart of ‘premature decommissioning’  and MER (Maximising Economic Recovery) in the context of the mandatory Collaboration Code in the Energy Act shortly due to be ratified by the British parliament.


The new Energy Act provides the Aberdeen-based regulator OGA with power to compel Tier-1 operators to ‘collaborate’ (ie provide otherwise ‘commercially sensitive’ information) to the regulator and other ‘rivals’ so as to Maximise Economic Recovery from the ageing North Sea oil and gas basin

The Brae Area comprises three offshore platforms – Brae Alpha, Brae Bravo and East Brae and the Brae-Forties pipeline. Marathon Oil is the operator of the platforms and pipeline and has equity interests in the South Brae, Central Brae, West Brae, North Brae, Beinn, East Brae and Braemar fields.

The Brae Alpha platform and facilities act as host for the underlying South Brae field, as well as the adjacent Central Brae and West Brae fields. The Brae Alpha platform also provides processing services for the third party operated Trees and Enoch fields.

The Brae Bravo platform and facilities act as host for the underlying North Brae and Beinn fields and in addition provides processing services for the third party operated Kingfisher field.

The East Brae Bravo platform and facilities act as host for the underlying East Brae field and in addition provides processing services for the Braemar and Devenick fields.

The Brae Area liquids, along with that of over thirty third party fields, are exported via the Marathon operated Brae-Forties pipeline to the BP operated Forties Pipeline System and then onwards to Kinneill for further processing.

Commenting on the London Times article, a Marathon spokesman said the decommissioning of the Brae field had been in the planning for several years.

A Marathon spokesman said: “It is factually incorrect that Brae decommissioning plans have been accelerated. There is no linkage between the decommissioning planning programme and the December Brae Alpha incident.

“Decommissioning planning has been under way for several years.

“We’ve been engaged in industry forums during that time and have made numerous presentations at various conferences.

“Stakeholder engagement is an integral part of planning for decommissioning and Marathon Oil is committed to clear and open communication throughout the process.”

“The decommissioning programmes are being developed in accordance with relevant legislation and will be based on assessments of the safety, technical, environmental, socio-economic and financial aspects of decommissioning.

“Additionally, with respect to Brae Alpha, in our most recent earnings release issued 17 February we stated ‘in late December, the Brae Alpha installation experienced a process pipe failure. Repairs are under way with resumption of full production expected in the second quarter’.”

Here’s how we COULD get MER out of the North Sea

Send YOUR Top 3 Wishes to get MER to: –

The University of Aberdeen is partnering with Scottish Energy News in organising a keynote event to examine the challenges and issues linked to Maximising Economic Recovery from the UKCS.

The event will be a one-day conference, to be held in Kings Conference Centre on 14 April  and followed on from an article published in the Scottish Energy News  (see and the interest in,  and reaction to, this piece.  

The event will have excellent speakers, who include:

  • Paul Goodfellow – VP UK and Ireland, Shell
  • Gunther Newcombe –  Director Exploration and Production, OGA
  • Graeme Young – Partner CMS
  • Derek Leith ‘North Sea Fiscal Update’ –  Senior Partner, Aberdeen Ernst and Young
  • John Pearson – Group President, Northern Europe & CIS AMEC-Foster Wheeler
  • Greg Gordon – University of Aberdeen, School of Law
  • Alex Kemp – University of Aberdeen, School of Economics
  • Ian Phillips –  CEO, Oil and Gas Innovation Centre
  • Gordon Drummond – CEO  NSRI

Presentations will range across topics from competition law, collaboration with peers, other companies and regulators, innovation and cost efficiencies.

The aim is to inform with new thinking on these issues and encourage meaningful discussion.  The day will offer space for questions and discussion, including a panel discussion and networking.

John Scrimgeour
John Scrimgeour

John Scrimgeour, Executive Director, at the University’s Aberdeen Institute of Energy, said: “This is shaping up to be a stimulating and fascinating consideration of the many issues and challenges facing the sector at this time.

“We are confident that we have created the very first conference of this kind, where a range of speakers from academia and industry will debate the major legal, organisational and technical issues, many of which have not yet been discussed or debated in sufficient detail, and are not yet common knowledge. “

“The conference will offer delegates a significant opportunity to hear from key experts, network with fellow colleagues and get involved in the key areas of discussion”.

To find out more details on our speaker line up and the programme for the day, as well as to register, go to:

NB; All lawyers; this will be CPD-able as it deals with new legislation – the Collaboration Code under the new Energy Act; this is a first of a kind CPD conference

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