Decommissioning is a process of removing the industrial installation & relevant structures that have come to the end of its lifecycle and the subsequent restoration process of industrial sites to its previous levels has to be done accordingly.
Decommissioning consists of several stages. In the oil & gas industry and particularly in the offshore industry, wells securing operations are firstly started and afterwards the structures and pipes connecting the platform to the treatment ground centers are removed. Such operations must be performed with extreme care and require both specialized personnel and sophisticated techniques with the aim at avoiding environmental impacts. The removal stage is followed by the identification of adequate sites for the storage of non-usable materials and the final processing of potentially polluting product, such as metallic and plastic wrecks, combustible oils, etc.
The costs of decommissioning is very difficult to grasp as it depends on number of variable factors such as installation typology, the site geomorphology, the choice to either remove the installations partially or fully, the market conditions and the presence of key personnel.
With reference to installation, major role is played by status of working area with special focus on weather conditions. So to ensure good weather prevails decommissioning activities are performed specially during summers. More often than not, the removal process is sometimes more cumbersome & difficult as there have been a constant process of overlaying throughout the years.
Hence, high tech resources and adequate planning is most important to tackling the main elements of decommissioning considered from business & environmental point of view without neglecting costs & safety.
In Oil & gas sector decommissioning process is legally governed by a wide array of international, national & local legal sources which may sometimes be in contrast with each other & under continuous development processes.
Some of the legal sources frameworks followed in oil & gas decommissioning are
- 1958 Geneva convention on continental shelf
- 1982 united nations convention of the law of the sea(UNCLOS)
- Non-binding International Maritime Organization Guidelines and Standards of the Removal of Offshore Installations and Structures on the Continental Shelf and in the Exclusive Economic Zone;
- The OSPAR Convention (coupled with the OSCOM Guidelines, as adopted).
Due to many oil & gas facilities approaching the end of their operational life, the decommissioning market is dramatically changing all over the world, being the North-sea currently one of the most bustling areas. In it, for too long the decommissioning activity has been considered as an isolated activity, entirely separate from production. However, following the Wood Review, operators have started addressing a different strategy, which is basically based on maximizing resourcing and minimizing costs.