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Shell attacked over plan to ‘litter the sea’ by leaving behind oil rig bases

ONE of Scotland’s leading oil industry figures has attacked decommissioning plans by Shell that could see the giant legs of three offshore oil platforms left in the North Sea.

Speaking exclusively to The National, Professor Alex Russell – chairman of the Oil Industry Finance Association, who also chairs a working group on North Sea decommissioning – said: “It’s appalling, completely unacceptable, particularly when they are outsourcing jobs from Glasgow to India and elsewhere.

“Why on earth should the UK Government subsidise Shell and other oil companies for decommissioning when they’re going to leave half their garbage to litter our sea beds?”

“I don’t understand for a minute why Greenpeace have not been more proactive on this. We really need to take a determined stance against the oil industry here. The North Sea off the coast of Scotland, as far as I am concerned, is not a litter bin for oil companies to leave whatever they want.”

Shell has lodged documents with the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to close down four platforms in the Brent field, which started producing oil about 115 miles east of Shetland 40 years ago but which is said to be “no longer economically viable”.

Earlier this year, the oil giant said it would seek an exemption to leave platform legs – said to weigh about 300,000 tonnes – on safety grounds.

Its latest report said the “footings” of the Brent Alpha platform would be left under sea level while the steel and concrete legs of the other three larger platforms – Bravo, Charlie and Delta – would remain under its current plans.

The report said: “Each structure which supports the topsides above the surface of the sea weighs 300,000 tonnes, roughly the same as the Empire State Building.

“We have analysed a long list of options for the gravity base structures (GBS) such as re-floating, partial removal or leaving them in place. Our recommendation is that the safest and most responsible solution is to leave the GBS legs and oil storage cells in place, marked with navigation aids so they are recognisable to shipping, fishermen and other users of the sea.”

A spokeswoman for the company added: “Shell is liaising with the BEIS and expects the public consultation on the Brent decommissioning programme to commence in the New Year.”

However, WWF Scotland said the legs could pose an environmental risk if left in the North Sea.

Director Lang Banks said: “While removing these structures is not without environmental risk, neither is leaving them lying on the seabed to slowly break down over hundreds of years.

“The industry pushed the boundaries of science and engineering to access North Sea oil and gas. Having made massive profits over the last few decades, it’s only right that it should push those limits once again to clean up their potentially hazardous legacy and protect the marine environment.

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1 Comment on “Shell attacked over plan to ‘litter the sea’ by leaving behind oil rig bases”

  1. #1 Bill Campbell
    on Dec 10th, 2016 at 21:17

    Littering the North Sea appears a rather emotive statement by the Professor, quite appalling, completely unacceptable etc. He also links the plans for the concrete structures to an outsourcing of jobs from Glasgow which is unrelated to the structures. Professor Russell previously wrote about the storage cells containing radioactive material also in an exaggerated way, the sludge contains naturally occurring low-level radioactive material which many studies declare does not pose a risk to persons or the environment. Any reasoned risk analysis would conclude that the environmental risks of the structures staying in situ are balanced by the environmental risks of dismantling these huge structures at some onshore dockyard.

    What a comprehensive risk analysis would also conclude would be that the safety risks of dismantling these reinforced concrete structures onshore are highly significant compared to the almost negligible safety risks of leaving the structures where they are.

    If your overarching concerns is for the health and safety of any involved workforce the case for leaving the structures where they are should, in my opinion, dominate any decision-making process on the grounds of safety.

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