Royal Dutch Shell today submitted plans to dismantle its Brent North Sea production platforms to the British government, marking a turning point for the UK oil industry.
Shell's Brent field, which is one of the largest fields in the North Sea, has produced around 3bn barrels of oil equivalent since work began in 1976. That's almost 10 per cent of the UK's total production.
Known for lending its name to the benchmark measure for crude, the Brent field produced more than 500,000 barrels per day in its heyday in 1982.
Brent is one of the most complex decommissioning processes, Shell said - the site has four platforms, 154 wells and 28 pipelines. The oil major has consulted with its stakeholders since 2007 and received input from around 180 organisations across Europe to work out the best solution.
“After an extensive and in-depth study period, the submission of Shell’s Brent decommissioning programme marks another important milestone in the history of the Brent oil and gas field,” said Duncan Manning, Brent decommissioning asset manager.
The programme is set to start this summer when Shell removes the 24,200 tonne topside of its Brent Delta platform. This process was already approved two years ago after Delta stopped production in 2011.
Brent Alpha and Bravo ceased production in 2014, while the Charlie platform will continue to produce oil "for some time", Shell said.
Shell's plan will leave the legs of some of its platforms intact, saying removing the 6,000 tonne concrete legs would be "extremely technically challenging" and would pose more safety and environmental risks than benefits.
The Anglo-Dutch oil giant submitted its programme to the department for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS), which has invited public responses to the proposals over the next 60 days. It will then analyse the feedback and decide whether to approve the plan.
"Any decommissioning plan will be carefully considered by the government, taking into account environmental, safety and cost implications, the impact on other users of the sea and a public consultation," Reuters reported a spokesman for the BEIS said.
Companies operating in UK waters need to dismantle around 7,500 kilometres of pipelines and more than 100 platforms at an estimated cost of £17.6bn by 2025, Oil & Gas UK has previously said. These costs have been provided for by the operators and the British government through tax relief.