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Bill Campbell supports Shell leaving North Sea oil rigs in situ

Article by Bill Campbell, retired HSE Group Auditor, Shell International

Subject: Unethical, unwarranted reporting by the Independent and Guardian on the risks of leaving concrete gravity-based structures in situ

Anyone who cares to get at the truth, who spends 30 minutes looking through reports, many of which are independent and supported by authorities in UK and also Norway et al will come quickly to the conclusion that the alarming headlines that these structures are full and brimming with crude oil and chemicals, and represent a ticking time bomb are not only fake news but patently untrue.

The alarming articles in question

The Guardian: UK facing EU outrage over ‘timebomb’ of North Sea oil rigs: 4 Sept 2019

The Independent: North Sea oil rigs set to be abandoned while still full of crude oil and chemicals: 4 Sept 2019

In fact, the studies conducted to date suggest a high risk of failure in attempting to raise these structures with the individual risk of fatality of one per structure which in itself may if anything be an underestimate and does not include the potential loss of life of breaking up the structures at some land-based site.

No one is suggesting that cost, mainly the cost to you and I as taxpayers is high, with the total cost of lifting and removal included in the grand total of some 20 billion for all its North Sea facilities with the 14 billion of this being paid by our Government from your taxes. But cost does not appear to be the driver in the decision-making process.

10 years of independent studies support the Shell decision to leave these structures in situ and in fact 5 concrete structures not owned or operated by Shell in the North Sea, for example, Ekofisk T and Frigg TCP2 in the Norwegian sector, have already been left in place with the support of the Norwegian parliament, so precedence has been well established.

In fact the scientific study carried out on behalf of the German government, you may be surprised to read, recommends the Brent structures be left in situ.  Of course, there are still issues being worked and you will always have variation in opinion between experts but suffice to say the British authorities fully support the Shell position.

With the concrete columns sealed, fitted with navigation warning lights, recorded on maritime maps Shell estimates the risk of ship collision is once in 10,000 years.  Scottish fishermen through their representatives wish that the columns be left standing proud rather than truncated under Sea level, so that they can see them, the wildlife fund people speak about the benefits to marine life from these artificial reefs.

The biggest environmental risk would come from attempting to remove, suck up from the sea bed and the top of the cellar deck the drilling cuttings discharged to sea over many years of operation. They contain around 2 per cent by volume of oil-based mud and disturbing these cuttings, rather than leaving them undisturbed would in itself cause much more damage than leaving them over the years with the effect of the sea leaching the oils away slowly.  For example, when the discharged drilling cuttings around the NW Hutton were revisited the level and impact of leaching had been more progressive than thought indicating degradation of any harmful chemical would take place more rapidly than estimated with minimum effect environmentally.

In summary, the statements in the newspapers attributed to a Senior but unnamed German official that retaining the concretes structures in place was a grotesque idea amounting to a ticking time bomb and that the EU was outraged was the opinion of an individual and which completely ignores it seems the facts, but such headlines are of course good for newspaper circulation but it is surprising that these quality newspapers would base their headlines on an individuals, a single source, comment.  But that again is a symptom of modern-day life when the truth is not important, just the message and its impact on the unaware reader who is devoid of the facts.

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One Comment

  1. Aiden says:

    Haha what a biased article!!! And why should tax payers pay for removal. I’m sure the company that put it there in the first place SHELL should be responsible for the associated costs! What a joke

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