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Operator decommissionings - recent and current

Shell UK - Brent Spar

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The Brent Spar was taken out of operation in 1991 after some 15 years' service in the Shell/Esso Brent field in the Northern North Sea - the UK's largest source of oil and gas. A very large floating oil storage and loading buoy, the Spar had stored oil from the Brent "A" platform and acted as a tanker loading facility for the whole of the Brent field.

Detailed studies by several independent companies established that deepwater disposal of the Spar at a site in the deep Northern Atlantic was the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO). The UK Government publicly approved this original plan in February 1995, and also informed the European Union and the twelve countries in continental Europe who were signed up to the Oslo Convention for the protection of the marine environment.

However, these scientific and risk evaluations were largely swept aside in the exceptional events of the summer of 1995, when outrage against deepwater disposal of the Spar arose in many people from a deeply-rooted belief in the principle of "clean seas". Shell abandoned the deepwater disposal plan on 20th June. The UK Government accepted this course of action and helped Shell to obtain a licence from the Norwegian authorities allowing the Spar to be anchored in the deep waters of Erfjord. A series of stakeholder dialogue seminars were held across Europe to help find a publicly acceptable solution for the Brent Spar.

Following a long and detailed evaluation of contractor bids, in January 1998 Shell announced its choice of solution for Spar - a "one-off" re-use as a Norwegian Ro/Ro ferry quay at Mekjarvik. In August of the same year, the UK Government approved Shell's recommendation and by July 1999, the Mekjarvik quay was completed.

ConocoPhillips Norway - Ekofisk

In 1994, Phillips Petroleum Norway (now ConocoPhillips Norge) initiated the Ekofisk I Cessation project with the objective of achieving the disposal of the field's range of structures in a safe, environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner.

In October 1999, the company published an Impact Assessment Report detailing the results of an assessment of the effects on the environment and society estimated to result from the implementation of each of the relevant disposal alternatives for Ekofisk I topsides, substructures, pipelines, drill cuttings and seabed debris. A Cessation Plan was also submitted to the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy at that time.

The proposals look at the decommissioning of 14 steel platforms and 1 large concrete tank (Ekofisk Tank).

The concrete tank, which weighs 1,2 million tonnes, was a candidate for derogation under the OSPAR rules governing decommissioning. In the spring of 2001, a consultation document was sent to all the OSPAR contracting parties. No objections were raised to the proposal to leave the tank as long as it does not harm the environment in the long-term. In June 2002, the Norwegian Parliament also approved the recommendation to leave the tank in place.

Decommissioning of the other 14 structures and the Ekofisk Tank Topsides at Ekofisk I will begin in 2005/2006 and continue until 2013.

ConocoPhillips UK - Maureen

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Oil production from the Maureen facilities became uneconomic in June 1999 following a rapid decline in production levels. There were no remaining opportunities to increase production levels economically and the Cessation of Production (COP) was granted by the DTI on October 7th, 1999. By that time, the plans for decommissioning Maureen were well under way.

The Maureen platform was a unique structure since it was a steel gravity base structure which was designed to be refloated and moved to another location for reuse (the Maureen owners’ preferred solution) or to a suitable inshore location for deconstruction and recycling.

The structure weighed 110,000 tonnes and was the first large structure to be decommissioned in the world. The Decommissioning Programme document, which described the owners’ decommissioning recommendations, was issued for public consultation in June 2000. The UK government approved the proposals in December 2000. In June 2001 the whole platform was successfully refloated and towed by six tugs to a yard at Stord on the West Coast of Norway. The Maureen loading column, which was also designed for removal, was refloated shortly after the platform and also towed to Stord. At 10,000 tonnes the concrete column is the second heaviest structure to be removed after the Maureen platform.

The Maureen owners continued to seek a buyer for a possible full reuse of the platform until the last possible moment. However, in October 2001 a partial reuse was found for both the platform and column substructures. The base of the platform will be cut up and used as part of a deep-water quay at a yard on Stord, while the concrete column will be used as a breakwater in a leisure marina nearby. Up to 95% of the remaining parts of the structures will be reused or recycled.

Total Exploration Norge - Frigg Field

TotalFinaElf Exploration Norge - Frigg Field
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Gas production at the Frigg Field ceased in October 2004 after 27 years of operation. The field is unique in that it straddles the borders of both the UK and Norwegian continental shelves and the plans for its decommissioning had to be approved by the authorities in both countries. 

The Frigg field comprises three steel platforms and three large concrete structures.  The size and complexity posed by its decommissioning meant that the operator Total E&P Norge AS, on behalf of the owners, have worked for a number of years with stakeholders to seek the best decommissioning solution for the field. Final approval of the Frigg Field Cessation Plan was obtained in April 2004.

All topside facilities will be removed to shore for disposal, as will the three steel substructures, or jackets.  The three concrete substructures, two located in the UK Sector and one in the Norwegian Sector, will be left in place after removing external steel works. Navigation aids will be installed on each substructure.

The offshore removal work is planned to last four years starting summer 2005, with the main offshore removal activities being carried out during the calmer summer seasons.

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