Shell questions the environmental and financial costs of dismantling Brent Spar

Shell has announced that the decommissioning of the Brent Spar North Sea oil platform has cost the company double the amount it expected and failed to result in a net overall energy saving.


Greenpeace International welcomed the news that Brent Spar decommissioning has been completed, without any environmental or safety incidents. “We commend them for living up to their industrial responsibility and cleaning up after themselves,” Simon Reddy, oceans political advisor for Greenpeace International told edie.

Shell’s original plan involved dumping Brent Spar in the North Sea, and the company secured government approval to do so. Campaigning by many environmental organisations, including Greenpeace, led to Shell agreeing to decommission and dismantle the structure instead.

Ring sections of the hull have been used to form the foundations of a new quay near Stavanger in Norway.

Studies undertaken by Shell suggested that decommissioning could result in a net energy saving, however the company has announced that the project has, in fact, resulted in a net energy consumption. Shell also detailed how expensive the decommissioning has proved, with the dismantling costing £41m. Costs increased, according to the oil company, in the area of safety and environmental measures and engineering development.

In total, Brent Spar decommissioning, including Shell’s early work undertaken to prepare it for dumping, totalled £60m and took 200 man years.

“We’ve provided this information because we’re being open and transparent,” a Shell spokesperson told edie, and denied that Shell has emphasised the project’s cost and environmental impacts over more positive aspects, including the discovery of a sizeable cold water coral attached to the structure and the project’s impeccable safety and environmental record.

“Decommissioning costs will come down as expertise develops,” says Greenpeace’s Reddy. “Oil companies should have to pay to clean up after themselves and when you put it into perspective in terms of Shell’s profits over the last 25 years [the period during which Shell has been active in the North Sea] we’re talking about clean-up costs of probably less than 1%. That’s nothing compared to chemical companies that sometimes spend up to 60% of their annual profits keeping up with environmental legislation. The UK Government’s tax take on North Sea oil for the last 25 years has been about £160Bn, so the oil companies have made hundreds of billions.”

There are about 600 oil-related structures in the North Sea. In 1998, 15 countries agreed to end oil platform dumping in the region. Greenpeace says it is looking forward to the development of a decommissioning industry that will invest in energy-efficient technologies and create jobs.

“Despite the sour grapes from Shell we say hats off to them,” said Reddy

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