Offshore decommissioning should be viewed as an opportunity rather than an afterthought, contends Karen Seath, interim Chief Executive of Decom North Sea…

Once a job that was considered “something for the future”, and which was overshadowed by the big money in exploration projects, decommissioning is now being viewed as an opportunity. If this sector is not part of your company’s growth plans, it should be. We are all fully aware of the current situation.

Over the past 18 months, the drop in oil price has led to a number of difficult decisions for those making the unenviable task of cutting costs where capex has been significantly reduced, resulting in deferred or cancelled projects. The supply chain has been squeezed and headcount has reduced considerably.

Oil & Gas UK’s 2016 Activity Survey, published on 23 February, reveals that the pace of decommissioning is, however, accelerating. Over the last year, the number of fields expected to cease production between 2015 and 2020 has risen by a fifth to over 100. That being said, some decommissioning projects for 2016 have been deferred due to lack of current cash flow.

Across the globe, decommissioning is now recognised as a critical – and inevitable – stage in the life of an installation. Offshore decommissioning is a complex series of activities, each calling for its own level of skill and expertise. From operations to communications, engineering to legislation, each strand is vital. Understanding how a platform was installed, how it was operated, and the expectations for when it reaches the end of its life is a collaborative process which requires transparent knowledge sharing.

Widening the knowledge net

Decom North Sea (DNS) is the industry body that facilitates this in the North Sea. The overarching aim of the body is to bring people from across a range of industries – not just oil and gas – together in an open environment to discuss challenges and opportunities and, above all, to learn from one another. To make this opportunity as efficient and effective as possible, DNS consistently encourages its members to share their experiences, to learn from one another, and ultimately benefit the industry as a whole.

To widen the net on the knowledge within the industry, DNS is keen to hear from any business currently involved in the decommissioning sector in its aim to develop an online best practice tool for the decommissioning community.

A single access point

Its Late Life Planning Portal (L2P2) is an operational website, designed to support the North Sea oil and gas industry in the planning and execution of late life and decommissioning projects. Providing a single access point for knowledge sharing and cross sector learning, L2P2 has reached the stakeholder evaluation phase, and requires input from those with decommissioning experience to take it to the next step.

As decommissioning activity increases, focused planning procedures are required and L2P2 will provide a toolkit to which industry can refer during the entire decommissioning project, from the early planning stages through to application. However, this will only happen effectively and efficiently if people are willing to share their experiences. From best practice and company guidelines to case studies and lessons learned, sharing experiences will build an invaluable knowledge bank for the entire decommissioning community.

True collaboration and transformational change

We have an opportunity during this highly challenging $40/boe period to effect a fundamental step change in our ways of working, our behaviour and culture – to effect transformational change which will truly enable effective and efficient decommissioning. True collaboration is when there is trust, when operations are joint and when structures, teams and processes are aligned.

Only through transformational change can UK-based companies become world leaders in this critical phase in an oil field’s life cycle. This will only come to pass if companies put individual gains aside, to share and develop a collective approach to maximise this window of opportunity. The time for enabling effective and efficient decommissioning is now. ■

Contact Pamela Ogilvie at to share your experiences and get involved with L2P2.


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