Decommissioning centre gets green light for Aberdeen

The Oil & Gas Technology Centre and the University of Aberdeen have teamed up to launch a multi-million-pound decommissioning 'centre of excellence' as the industry gears up to scrap scores of North Sea rigs.

The sheltered waters of Cromarty Firth have long been used for refits or as an anchorage for oil rigs. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

The new centre, which will be based at the Oceanlab facility in Aberdeenshire, is to be industry led and will focus on current challenges such as clean-up procedures, well plugging and abandonment. It will also explore opportunities to optimise future design for recycling and reuse, including the use of new materials.

Over the next decade, some 100 platforms and 7,500 kilometres of pipeline on the UK Continental Shelf are forecast for decommissioning, with costs estimated to be almost £60 billion up to 2050. The industry aims to reduce this figure by 35 per cent – a target set by the Oil & Gas Authority.

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The decommissioning centre is scheduled to open in late 2018. Recruitment will begin in the coming months, with a team of about 15 people initially expected.

The University’s Oceanlab facility – located in the Energetica corridor, which stretches from Aberdeen to Peterhead – already has a range of testing equipment, including indoor immersion tanks and a hyperbaric pressure vessel, for certifying new technology and testing systems that could drive down the cost of decommissioning.

It is hoped that by linking industry demand and expertise with academic capability and skills a competitive advantage will be created, not only for the oil and gas industry, but for decommissioning challenges in the wider energy sector such as offshore renewables.

Colette Cohen, chief executive of the Oil & Gas Technology Centre, which was established in October 2016 with £180 million in funding as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal, said: “This ground-breaking partnership between the Oil & Gas Technology Centre and the University of Aberdeen will help fundamentally change the way we think about decommissioning.

“It will drive the technology innovation needed to maximise economic recovery, make sure that facilities are decommissioned efficiently and help the UK create the strong and vibrant supply chain it needs to become a global leader in this growth market.”

Mike Greaves, senior vice-principal, University of Aberdeen, said: “The new Centre of Excellence is an exciting opportunity to build a world-class research and development facility right here in the north east of Scotland, and we are looking forward to helping develop the innovation, expertise and skills that will play an important role in the future of the industry both here and internationally.”

Sir Ian Wood, chairman of economic development body Opportunity North East, added: “The Decommissioning Centre of Excellence aims to have a transformational impact on efficiency, cost effectiveness and safety.”