Interview about offshore decommissioning with our trainer

Written by: Fleming. Team

Ian Prince
Decommissioning Consultant
Principle Decommissioning Services, UK

1. You were the implementation manager for the decommissioning of Brent Spar in Norway. Tell us about your role.

Initially, I was the project manager for an Anglo/Norwegian Consortium leading a competitive FEED to come up with the winning solution for the decommissioning and disposal of Brent Spar. Following success in winning the contract from Shell, I led a Norway-based team through design; during execution I was responsible for the implementation.
I was based in Vats, the Norwegian Fjord where the decommissioning took place; main duties were ensuring that all necessary resources and equipment were available to meet the programme and ensuring we had effective solutions for all problems.
I followed the project through to close-out and all in all I was involved for 3.5 years.

2. What were the biggest challenges?

There were many challenges, considering this was a unique decommissioning project with high media visibility.
The biggest challenges related to safety and environment, i.e., H2S was present in the Brent Spar storage tanks at levels of circa 500pp, creating a major safety hazard. The solution itself was a significant project.
Another challenge was disposing of the 50,000t of storage tank water once it had been cleaned; this also was a significant challenge, which required liaison with Norwegian regulators.
Disposal of LSA was also a significant issue requiring involvement of both UK and Norwegian regulators and actually took circa 2 years to resolve.

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3. Many installations in the North Sea are approaching the end of their lives. What do you think is the best solution?

OSPAR legislation dictates that platforms should be removed with some exception for the very large structures, via derogation.
Decommissioning and removal brings no value; consequently, the driver must be low cost without prejudice to safety and environment.
There is no one single solution and each structure should be viewed based on its own characteristics.
Consideration should be given in the late life of a platform to decommissioning, rather than leaving it to the end as a separate project.
Looking at the ‘bigger picture’ for carrying out decommissioning in campaigns, also giving maximum flexibility to contractors, could result in lower cost.

4. Do you see Rigs to Reefs as an option?

Prior to Brent Spar, Rigs to Reefs in the North Sea were being seriously considered, but OSPAR decision 98/3 effectively killed that off.
Rigs to Reefs have been successful in many parts of the world, but one needs to consider the following for the North Sea:

  • Rigs to Reefs must not be an excuse for ‘dumping’ and just leaving platforms where they are
  • In the UK, an Operator has liability for any remains in perpetuity; consequently, a mechanism would be needed to transfer liability from Operator to reef owner
  • The cost of removing a jacket and transporting it to a reef site may be greater than transporting it onshore for recycling
  • Topsides, unless cleaned and non-ferrous materials removed, will have to be removed to onshore for recycling
  • IMO require 55-metre clear water depth

5. You were the trainer at our preceding events. In your opinion, what are the key benefits of attending a Fleming. training?

The course covers all aspects of decommissioning from strategy and planning, through engineering, execution and close out. Delegates take part in exercises which are typical of a decommissioning project and they have an opportunity to discuss with other interested delegates what their issues and concerns are. A Fleming. event is the place to be to hear lessons learnt from real projects with case studies.