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Future of Brent Oil Platform’s Giant Legs Remains Uncertain

Future of Brent Oil Platform’s Giant Legs Remains Uncertain

Laura Hurst: 09 April 2021

(Bloomberg) — The U.K. government is still undecided on whether it will allow Royal Dutch Shell Plc to leave in the sea the giant concrete legs that once supported the iconic Brent oil platforms.

Shell has asked for permission to leave the columns — each almost as tall as the Eiffel Tower and together weighing around 1 million tons — jutting from the water because it says removing them would pose a greater environmental risk. A government decision on the matter, which was last due in September, has dragged.

The decision on the installations that held up the Brent Bravo, Charlie and Delta platforms is still being considered, a spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said in an emailed response to question. It didn’t provide an updated timeline.

Shell’s iconic Brent field, which lends its name to the benchmark that sets most of the world’s oil prices, was one of the U.K.’s most significant fields when it was discovered in 1971. At its peak, it produced more than half a million barrels of oil a day. The field’s dismantling has drawn the ire of environmental groups, with Greenpeace activists hanging a banner on the platform reading “Clean up your mess, Shell! in 2019.

While the U.K. has the authority to approve Shell’s plans, it is required to consult with members of ocean protection group OSPAR. The group prohibits leaving unused installations in the sea, but does set out a process to request a relaxation of the rule. Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden have raised concerns over the plans.

Shell has repeatedly said that leaving the structures is the safest and most environmentally friendly solution to shutting down the fields permanently. In its 2017 decommissioning plan, it said that the structures will deteriorate and collapse over a period of 1,000 years.

The dismantling of the parts of the platform visible above the waterline are carried out separately from those below. The tops of Brent Alpha, Bravo and Delta have already been removed, with Charlie next in line. ©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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