Updated: Jun 22
In the oil and gas industry, sustainable decommissioning is helping to reduce the carbon footprint of decommissioned facilities and protect the environment.
With more than 100 platforms in the North Sea set to shut down before 2025, companies are shifting their focus to methods in which facilities can be decommissioned in ways that reduce the overall impact on the environment.
At NuWave Industries, our goal is to provide decommissioning services that are efficient, cost-saving, and environmentally friendly!
To help you better understand how sustainable decommissioning works, here is how facilities are being decommissioned in an environmentally friendly way:
What is Decommissioning?
Decommissioning is a process in the oil and gas industry that involves the removal of installations and structures that have reached the end of their productive life. It is considered the final stage of an energy project when all the usable fuel has been processed.
During a decommission, the facility is dismantled and the surrounding area is returned to its natural condition.
Once a facility is decommissioned, it cannot be reactivated.
The procedure for decommissioning an oil and gas facility depends on the location, mainly offshore and onshore.
Offshore pipelines involve subsea pipelines and oil rig lines. Decommissioning offshore facilities is a complex procedure while onshore pipeline decommission is more straightforward.
The decommissioning process involves several stages. For offshore facilities, the pipes and structures connecting the platform to the treatment ground are removed with extreme care.
This requires sophisticated techniques in order to avoid environmental impacts.
For both onshore and offshore decommissioning, the removal stage is followed by identifying sites for the storage of non-usable materials and the processing of potentially polluting materials.
How Does Decommissioning Impact the Environment?
There are potential environmental hazards associated with decommissioning oil facilities, especially offshore facilities.
For instance, oil platforms become part of the underwater environment, providing breeding grounds for marine life. Also, removing rocks from the seafloor during a decommissioning project can disturb sediment habitats.
Decommissioning also involves barges and tugs that create CO2 emissions.
Overall, experts believe that decommissioning a rig can be more harmful than having an operational infrastructure. However, these platforms will erode over time and create larger environmental risks.
For these reasons, more and more regulations are being put into place to ensure that rigs and facilities are decommissioned in a way that is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
A large part of decommissioning a facility in an environmentally-friendly way involves sustainability.
This means collecting as many reusable assets as possible or repurposing the facility into something new.
Here are some ways in which companies can ensure sustainable decommissioning:
Repurposing Assets and Infrastructure
By repurposing assets and infrastructure, some wells can be sustainably decommissioned. This means reusing infrastructure and technology in other facilities.
However, being able to do so depends on how well the assets were maintained during their lifetime. Many orphaned wells have been active since the 1970s and their structures have suffered damage from acidic soils or salty environments.
Therefore, proper asset management is important to ensure that components of a decommissioned facility can be used in the future.
Existing offshore structures can be redeployed for hydrogen production since they have access to the water required for electrolysis.
By reorienting existing technology, this can be used as a greener form of energy.
This sustainable approach to decommissioning can potentially expend less energy on creating new assets and maximize the potential of existing structures.
Abandoned oil and gas wells can be repurposed into desalination plants for areas that are affected by drought.
Although the well cannot be reused, the technology and infrastructure around it can be if it was properly maintained and in good condition.
The longer an offshore facility exists, the more integrated it becomes with the local
ecosystem. As such, many rigs have become artificial reefs and support a variety of marine life.
This means that the removal of steel jackets during a decommissioning project can actually be environmentally destructive.
To decommission in a way that is environmentally friendly, the topside of the well should be removed and the steel jackets relocated to the seabed.
Responsible and Environmentally-Friendly Decommissioning
When it comes to environmentally-friendly decommissioning and the direct impact decommissioning has on the environment, having a proper plan and following regulations is imperative.
Thankfully, the decommissioning process is highly regulated around the world to ensure that the environmental impact of the project is minimal.
Pre-Abandonment Surveys and a Decommissioning Plan
A pre-abandonment survey will help determine any potential environmental impacts and a proper decommissioning plan, along with approval from governing bodies, will ensure that the decommissioning process is completed as environmentally friendly as possible.
Oil Platform Prep and Well Plugging
Prior to the decommissioning process, the oil facility must be prepared by having residual hydrocarbons purged in order to clean out the pipes, tanks, and equipment.
This part of the procedure is carried out in a way that ensures the least possible amount of residue is released into the environment.
The wellbore is then cleaned out and carefully plugged to prevent any environmental issues as well.
Proper Disposal of Associated Waste
If elements of the oil and gas facility cannot be reused or formed into artificial reefs, it is transported to specialized landfills.
Test trawling is also done to verify that the area is clear.
After a facility is decommissioned, it is the responsibility of the energy company to do everything they can to return the land or sea to a functional and productive state equivalent to what it was prior to the facility's development.
Sustainable Decommissioning Services
At NuWave Industries, our experienced and specialized team is dedicated to providing decommissioning services that are cost-effective, safe, and environmentally friendly.
We operate according to oil and gas industry-regulated standards with a strong focus on health and safety planning.
Get in touch with us today to learn more about our decommissioning services!