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Shell’s Eco-Friendly Secrets: UK Regulator Playing ‘Hide and Seek’ with North Sea Documents

Posted by John Donovan (right): 30 October 2023

Ladies and gentlemen, gather ’round! In the latest episode of How Not To Be Transparent, the UK’s oil and gas regulator is shining bright as the star. Watch in awe as they unleash their team of lawyers in a valiant attempt to shield us all from a whopping five documents concerning the teeny-tiny environmental impact of Shell’s North Sea operations. Why, you ask? Oh, just a minor “matter of process basis”. Wink, wink.

It seems Shell, after  operating the Brent oilfield for over four decades, now wishes for a wee little exemption. Those pesky international rules demand all infrastructure be removed from the field. But Shell, always thinking outside the box, wonders: why not leave behind those colossal 170-metre-high oil platform legs? After all, they only house a few – 64, to be exact – concrete storage cells. And just between us, only 42 of those were used for oil storage. What’s inside, you wonder? Oh, just a tiny amount of 72,000 tonnes of contaminated sediment and a splash of 638,000 cubic metres of oily water. But who’s counting?

Thankfully, our diligent friends at the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) are guarding these critical documents as if they contained the recipe for the Colonel’s secret spices. These papers could, rumor has it, shed some light on potential long-term environmental party-poopers for other North Sea oil celebrations.

Lang Banks, from the tiny, little-known group called WWF Scotland, had the audacity to say, “It’s an absolute farce that the regulator is spending public money on lawyers…” Farce? Pfft. More like a thrilling drama. Tessa Khan of Uplift, echoed similar sentiments, pointing out the NSTA’s subtle, totally unintentional bias towards the oil and gas industry. But can we really blame them? With ex-oil and gas bigwigs on the board, it’s just one big, happy family!

A curious bunch at Point Source dared to ask for these guarded scrolls in 2022, using the Freedom of Information Act. But the NSTA, in their infinite wisdom, whispered sweet nothings to Shell and decided they didn’t have the power to reveal them. Oops!

Recently, the ICO reminded the NSTA of the “please do your job” memo, which, believe it or not, involves releasing documents when asked. The ICO even gave them a generous 35 days to either unveil the documents or give a fun, legal excuse. But why rush, right?

Meanwhile, some conspiracy theorists suggest the NSTA’s legal antics are merely to protect sensitive governmental feelings. Can’t let those pesky environmental facts pop up at inopportune times, can we?

As we eagerly await the next chapter in this saga, let’s remember the NSTA’s recent move that had some tree-huggers up in arms: approving the Rosebank oil field development. But hey, what’s one more field?

Shell, if there’s anything we’ve missed in our humble tale, do correct us. We’re all ears!


Shell’s Brent Bravo Platform Removed from North Sea

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