More than 1,465 North Sea oil wells to be decommissioned

17 July 2019

The Scottish government has pledged £4m in funds to support the decommissioning of North Sea infrastructure and boost the supply chain involved in the process.

The money, from the Decommissioning Challenge Fund, follows £10m already committed in locations including Shetland, Kishorn, Aberdeen, Dundee, Leith and Hunterston.

More than £64bn is expected to be spent globally on decommissioning – the dismantling and removal of oil and gas infrastructure after production ceases – over the next decade, which could represent a lucrative opportunity for supply chain companies and technology developers.

Scotland’s energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “Industry reports tell us that £15.3bn is forecast to be spent in the UKCS [UK Continental Shelf] between 2018-2027, with further market demand beyond this.”

Wheelhouse said decommissioning offers significant economic benefits and an opportunity to enhance Scottish firms’ skills and capacity.

This would include expertise in areas such as well plugging and abandonment techniques, he said.

“Decommissioning North Sea infrastructure will help Scotland’s supply chain gain an even higher share of North Sea projects and capitalise global market opportunities by exporting knowledge and experience.

“This fund will support innovation in the supply chain, further cost reduction and improve the recognised skills of the Scottish workforce – which is why it has proved so popular with businesses.”

Other areas where funding has been spent to boost the Scottish decommissioning supply chain include port infrastructure, onshore decommissioning and waste handling. 

In the UK more than 1,465 wells and around 880,000 tonnes of platforms are due to be disposed of, reused or recycled over the next decade.

The UK government has said it hopes Scotland will “pioneer the future of the global oil and gas industry” as the North Sea is one of the first areas to start decommissioning on such a large scale.

Some environmental campaigners have called for infrastructure to be left in place rather than removed at the end of its lifespan to act as artificial reefs for sea life. 

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