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Shell’s oil field plan concerns green lobby

Brent Oil fieldEnvironmentalists have expressed concern that Shell wants to leave behind the legs to to some of the platforms being decommissioned in the North Sea.

The oil giant has begun decommissioning one of its platforms but wants to extend the process across the whole field.

The top portion of the Brent Delta platform will be removed and scrapped. Plans for the rest of the infrastructure in the field will be submitted to the UK government.

They are expected to include leaving the legs of some of the platforms in place which Shell says is a safer option in an “incredibly complex” operation.

This has caused some anxiety among environmental groups who argue that any material containing oil should be removed to avoid contaminating the seabed.

Lang Banks, of WWF Scotland, said: “We should be aiming to set the highest possible benchmark for the rest of the industry to follow.

“If we do it right, if we remove as much as we can, the great thing is we have an opportunity for this country to develop a multi-billion pound industry in decommissioning, not just in the North Sea but right around the world.”

A 60-day consultation will now be launched before ministers decide whether to accept Shell’s plans

Brent, 320 miles from Aberdeen, is the best known of the North Sea fields as it lends its name to the benchmark price, Brent Crude.

It is made up of four platforms: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta which drilled 154 wells. Three have concrete legs weigh 300,000 tonnes, about the same as New York’s Empire State Building.

At its peak it produced enough energy to run half the UK’s homes. But now almost all its recoverable oil reserves have been depleted.

The best of decommissioning the platforms has been discussed by Shell since 2006. They have looked at re-using them for wind energy and carbon capture.

Decommissioning involves sealing the wells and has meant engaging purpose-built vessels to lift the Delta platform from the legs. The top side will be dismantled at Hartlepool where 97% of the structure will be recycled.

Twenty eight pipelines also have to be removed while there is also debris, such as scaffolding, lying on the seabed.

Deirdre Michie, Oil & Gas UK’s chief executive, said: “For more than 40 years, Brent has been a leading light in the UK’s industrial success story, contributing almost 10 per cent of the region’s oil and gas, delivering billions of pounds to the UK economy and supporting tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs.

“Today’s announcement opening the consultation for Shell’s Brent Decommissioning Plan is another milestone in this story, broadening the reach of public stakeholder engagement that has already taken place, as this iconic field moves into the next stage of its lifecycle.

“Ground-breaking ingenuity was required to bring the Brent field, located in the deep waters of the northern North Sea, into production and these skills will be required into the future as industry seeks to maximise economic recovery of the UK’s oil and gas alongside delivering decommissioning in a safe, environmentally responsible, and cost-efficient way.”

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