Decommissioning plans which could see the giant legs of three offshore oil platforms left in the North Sea are due to go before a public consultation early next year.
Shell has lodged documents with the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to close down four platforms in the Brent field, which started producing oil about 115 miles east of Shetland 40 years ago but is said to be “no longer economically viable”.
Earlier this year, the oil company said it would seek an exemption to leave platform legs – said to weigh about 300,000 tonnes – on safety grounds.
The latest report from Shell said the “footings” of the Brent Alpha platform would be left under sea level while the steel and concrete legs of the other three larger platforms – Bravo, Charlie and Delta – would remain under current plans.
“Our recommendation is that the safest and most responsible solution is to leave the GBS legs and oil storage cells in place, marked with navigation aids so they are recognisable to shipping, fishermen and other users of the sea.”
A spokeswoman said: “Shell is liaising with the BEIS and expects the public consultation on the Brent decommissioning programme to commence in the new year.”
WWF Scotland believes the legs could pose an environmental risk if left in the North Sea.
Director Lang Banks said: “While removing these structures is not without environmental risk, neither is leaving them lying on the seabed to slowly break down over hundreds of years.”