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13 February 2017



Oil and gas giant Shell has today (Wed 8 Feb) submitted plans to decommission four platforms at its Brent field in the North Sea. [1]

A 60-day public consultation will now begin, run by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.[2]

Along with some other potentially polluting wastes, Shell hopes to leave the giant legs of some of its platforms in the North Sea when it completes decommissioning work. Each leg is made of concrete and steel and weighs about 300,000 tonnes. [3]

Since 1998 the dumping, and leaving wholly or partly in place, of disused offshore installations is prohibited within certain sea areas, under OSPAR Decision 98/3 on the Disposal of Disused Offshore Installations. Under certain circumstances companies can seek permission to leave some installations in place. [4]

Responding to the consultation, WWF Scotland director, Lang Banks, said:

“With almost 4,000 pages of technical documents to plough through it will take some time to understand the full potential impact of Shell’s plans on the marine environment. We will now begin the process of reading each page in order to prepare our formal response to the consultation.

“However, having been involved in the stakeholder engagement process for several years, we know there are a number of areas where Shell will need to be pressed to do more to deal with their potentially hazardous legacy.

"Oil and gas companies operating in the North Sea have a legal, as well as moral, obligation to clean-up their mess. Having once pushed the boundaries of science and engineering to secure the oil and gas beneath the seabed, the industry should show the same innovation when it comes to decommissioning.”

On plans by Shell to leave some items on the seabed, Banks said:

"The OSPAR agreement is there to make sure the marine environment is protected and should be followed. The rules already allow for companies to seek permission to leave some material behind - such as the massive concrete legs - where moving it would pose an unacceptable risk to staff or the environment. We accept this principle.

"If the oil within the cells and some of the drill cuttings occur above limits that internationally agreed standards recommend, then they should be removed in order to prevent damage to the environment. The main thing preventing this from being done in this particular case is the cost. Shell should do the right thing and remove these potentially polluting materials.”

On the potential economic opportunities arising from decommissioning, Banks said:

  "Given the enormous size of the rigs and the iconic nature of the Brent field, its decommissioning is being watched closely, both here and globally, and it should therefore be aiming to set the highest possible benchmarks for the rest of the industry to follow. If done right, it could open the door for this country to lead a new multi-billion pound, global decommissioning industry that could create thousands of jobs as we continue our transition away from fossil fuels."

Notes to Editor:

[1] Shell submits plans to decommission Brent field

[2] UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy consultations:

[3] Shell Brent decommissioning website:

Shell’s media contacts are available here:

[4] OSPAR rules on offshore installations:

[5] Industry analysts Wood Mackenzie have estimated that at least 140 fields will cease production over the next 5 years, with a total of £55 billion (real terms) to be spent on decommissioning the UK Continental Shelf.





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