Facility Decommissioning: New Approaches to Planning, Engaging Stakeholders, and Pipelines

These four technical papers provide an overview of how facility decommissioning is addressed these days, including a case study in east Asia and a discussion of what to do with pipelines, flowlines, and umbilicals to preserve the environment—should they stay, or should they go?

Brent Bravo platform
The Brent Bravo platform, removed in 2019, was the second of four platforms to be decommissioned and removed from the Brent field, following Brent Delta in 2017.

Certain things or events that you use to illustrate something immediately show your age, and this introduction is a good example. When I began my career in the oil industry, the North Sea Brent field was the poster child for an offshore oil field. I remember how details of the field development were used to explain to me how things were done, and at no time did anybody ever use the word “decommissioning”. These offshore platforms were here to stay. Now, some 40 years later we know better. Most of the Brent facilities have been decommissioned, and these days the design of new facilities must take into account their decommissioning at some point in the future.

To give an overview of how facility decommissioning is addressed these days, I selected four papers. SPE 203250 was presented at the 2020 ADIPEC (Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference) and provides a good overview of the various aspects of facility decommissioning. It provides an outline of current decommissioning guidelines and typical practices, and explores cost-effective ways to deal with facility decommissioning, which is then illustrated through a case study in east Asia.

The other papers were presented in at the 2019 SPE Decommissioning and Abandonment Symposium in Malaysia. SPE 199195 reviews the existing planning process for decommissioning projects in the UK Continental Shelf and explores an alternative approach of planning these activities. This approach uses as the main milestone not the date when production ceases, but the date when the facility is removed, which automatically generates a different perspective of the decommissioning process.

SPE 199209 focuses on the decommissioning of specific facility components, namely pipelines, flowlines, and umbilicals. Here, the fundamental question is whether to leave them in place or to remove them, and the paper presents the outcome of various studies to determine the environmentally superior decommissioning option.

SPE 199203 addresses a completely different aspect of facility decommissioning, one that is often overlooked: the impact on its host communities that have come to depend on these facilities. It concludes that decommissioning presents a unique opportunity for the facility operator to help stakeholders plan for the future and, when done well, this provides an opportunity to build the operator’s legacy.

Together these four papers do not provide the answers to all the questions surrounding the decommissioning process, but as I read them, they helped me look at this activity more broadly. So, I encourage you to read the synopses for a better understanding of the decommissioning process, something we cannot ignore as I did when I started my career.

Technical Paper Synopses

Decommissioning Solutions for Offshore Structures Address Reliability, Cost

Alternative Method of Planning Decommissioning Reduces Costs

Study Determines Environmentally Superior Decommissioning Options

Stakeholder Engagement in the Decommissioning Process

Complete Technical Papers Available on OnePetro

SPE 203250 Cost Effective Decommissioning Liability Solutions for Offshore Structures by Isara Boondao, Mubadala Petroleum Thailand.

SPE 199195 Decommissioning Cost Reduction by Effective Planning of Decommissioning Projects Using Facility Removal Date as a Reference Point by A. Tung, Aberdeen-Curtin Alliance, University of Aberdeen, and Curtin University; C. Otto, Curtin University Oil & Gas Innovation Centre.

SPE 199209 Determining Environmentally Superior Decommissioning Options for Hard and Flexible Pipelines by P. Krause and J. Baquiran, ERM West Inc.

SPE 199203 Stakeholder Engagement in the Decommissioning Process by S. Genter, Environmental Resources Management.