Scottish Government unveils £5m fund to help ports benefit from North Sea decommissioning
A 60-day public consultation on Shell's decommissioning plans will now begin
Oil rig - credit: Steven Straiton
The Scottish Government has announced £5m in funding to help ports and harbours benefit from decommissioning in the North Sea, after Shell announced plans to dismantle its Brent field.
Shell has already started decommissioning one platform and has provided the UK Government with plans for dealing with the rest of the Brent field.
The Scottish Government’s Decommissioning Challenge Fund (DCF) will support infrastructure upgrades and innovation in salvage and transport methods at Scotland’s ports and harbours.
WWF Scotland said Shell must be “pressed to do more to deal with their potentially hazardous legacy”, while Scottish Labour welcomed the funding, but warned that the £5m fund is “barely a drop in the ocean in the grand scheme of things”.
A 60-day public consultation on the decommissioning plans will now begin, run by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Announcing the funding, Nicola Sturgeon said: “With up to 20 billion barrels of oil and gas remaining, the Scottish Government’s top priority remains working with industry and stakeholders to maximise economic recovery from the North Sea.
“The new £5 million Fund also recognises that decommissioning is an emerging, but growing, activity in the North Sea, with £17.6 billion expected to be spent in the North Sea over the next decade.
“Scottish-based firms are already seizing opportunities, securing the lion’s share of value from a range of decommissioning activities, including project management of decommissioning programmes and high value well plugging and abandonment activity.”
Analysis from industry body Oil and Gas UK suggests that more than 100 platforms will be completely or partially removed from the UK and Norwegian continental shelves by 2025.
Shell said its recommendations are safe, technically achievable, environmentally sound and financially responsible.
With around £17.6bn estimated to be spent on decommissioning on the UK Continental Shelf, Scottish Enterprise’s managing director of growth companies, innovation and infrastructure, Adrian Gillespie, said the organisation’s focus was on “supporting innovation, promoting our capability, helping develop new technologies as well as ensuring the right infrastructure is in place for Scotland to fully capitalise on this significant opportunity”.
Scottish Labour economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “Decommissioning can be a thriving industry for the North-East of Scotland, including Dundee, but the government needs to get a move on. There must be real drive behind decommissioning to secure the investment and create the jobs we so badly need. This is an opportunity that must not be missed.
“Nicola Sturgeon's announcement of a £5million decommissioning fund is welcome, but will be barely a drop in the ocean in the grand scheme of things. Nationalist ministers must do much more to take advantage of the opportunities for jobs and the local economy that decommissioning provide.”
WWF Scotland director, Lang Banks, said it would take time to go through the 4,000 pages of technical documents submitted by Shell to the UK Government.
He said: “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.”
Greener UK chair Shaun Spiers said: “There is now a real danger that the UK will leave the EU without a deal or consciously pivot towards countries with lower environmental standards.”
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