There has been a lot of talk about decommissioning during the Offshore Energy Exhibition and Conference in Amsterdam this week.
The national decommissioning platform of the Netherlands was launched, there was also a separate decommissioning session, and the CEO of UK’s Decom North Sea attended.
What we could hear over there is that offshore decommissioning is set to steadily grow, on the both sides of the invisible line splitting the Southern North Sea basin between the Netherlands and the UK.
Despite this, the growth of the decommissioning industry is expected to be spurred by the growing need of more and more operators to remove aging platforms as they come to the end of life, or as the reservoirs below them become depleted.
It has widely been said that it is in nobody’s plans to rush and remove everything there is to be removed, as that might jeopardize the development of the smaller fields and stranded assets which could benefit from using the nearby installations, and which would otherwise be non-economic to develop. However, most agree the removal is inevitable at some point.
Roger Esson, Chief Executive, Decom North Sea said it was also very important to start planning assets decommissioning early, as early as the planning of the field development.
He’s warned that otherwise, there might come a moment when too many operators will find themselves wanting to remove their assets at the same time, with only so many available decommissioning vessels and companies. This might lead to soaring decommissioning costs.
Taking another look at aging assets
Despite the decommissioning being an inevitable truth for many offshore platforms, the Dutch side feels there is a possibility that renewable energy industry might help make the platforms cleaner and possibly extend the life of some of these oil and gas assets, while also possibly benefitting from them in the longer run.
Some twenty industry players have been working to see what other options are there for offshore gas platforms before making the decision to remove.
They think the platforms could be connected to the nearby offshore wind farms, electrifying the offshore platforms with wind power to reduce emissions, and leave more gas to operators to sell onshore, instead of powering the platform with gas, while looking for alternatives to extend the life of those platforms.
This is also a move to accelerate the energy transition, with the Dutch gas reserves depleting and wind power growing, however making sure that domestic gas is produced as long as there is a need for it.
This needs to be done relatively quickly, as platforms need to be removed soon after the production stops, unless the alternative is found.
TNO director Rene Peters feels that synergies can be found for wind operators as well, who could use the platforms to convert power to gas, and then ship it via existing pipeline infrastructure for example.
Ante Frens, Development Technical Manager of NAM, said it would be a waste to throw something away if it can be reused.
He said that, technically, this system can be developed, but the devil will be in the detail, and many tweaks need to be made before this system is operational.
Frens revealed that an investment decision for a far offshore project of this type could be expected in two years.
If anything, what was once deemed impossible, is more and more becoming a reality – there is now a will to cooperate between the oil and gas industry and wind players.
Fraser Weir, director at Centrica said his company had been approached by a wind developer wanting to build a wind farm next to Centrica’s offshore platform.
“Five years ago we’d have said “go away”, now we said “let’s talk about it.”
Offshore Energy Today Staff