The oil and gas industry has brought enormous benefits to society, not only in the areas of transportation or energy for our homes but also as the basis of many other essential everyday products, such as plastics, pharmaceuticals and fibres. Today, the industry supports some 260,000
jobs throughout the UK and has invested £220 billion in today's prices since exploration began in the 1960s. This close integration with society has led to a growing sense of responsibility on the Industry's part to conduct all its operations, including the decommissioning of disused offshore oil and gas facilities, with proper regard to the environment.
As we begin the new millennium, many of the structures which have been producing oil and gas in the North Sea for well over thirty years are coming the end of their useful lives. Over the next couple of decades or so, we will see a growing number of redundant oil and gas installations taken out of service or, to use the Industry term, "decommissioned". It is a process which raises complex issues. There has been much debate in
recent years about the impact of these operations on the environment, on the health & safety of workers, the costs involved and the technology required, particularly when removing very large structures from the harsh, deep waters of the Northern North Sea. The industry needs to develop solutions that balance these factors for the overall benefit of the environment and society.