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BLOG – 10.05.20

5 Minutes With….Debs Morgan

This month XTRA caught up with decommissioning-focussed environmental consultant Debs Morgan to find out her perspective on all things decom.

What was it about decom that you found exciting?
I became involved in offshore oil and gas decommissioning projects as an Environmental Consultant in 2013. I chose this path as I was excited by the variety of projects and infrastructure involved and the challenge of finding innovative solutions to complex problems.

So, what kind of complex problems are you seeing right now?
Since 2013 I have seen an overall increase in the requirements for decommissioning support. However, external factors have a serious impact on Operators’ focus in this area. Due to low oil and gas prices and C-19, the decommissioning sector is in a time of flux. Right now, as decommissioning specialists, and as highlighted at the recent Decom North Sea Conference, we are seeing a lull in activity with decom plans being pushed to the right.

Why is a delay to decom planning a concern?
With every decommissioning project we are discovering more complex and rapidly developing issues to overcome. These problems are time consuming to resolve and are potentially extending decommissioning liabilities and costs for operators.

There must be some positives to be had in all this?
Absolutely! We can also choose to use this period of uncertainty as an opportunity to focus on streamlining processes. We can choose to innovate, collaborate and learn from past mistakes allowing us to step-up and take on the cost efficiencies outlined by the OGA.

Can you give us any examples?
The supply chain has a lot to offer to this approach. On a weekly basis, I deal with several projects and constantly see similarities and opportunities for efficiencies. The knowledge gained and lessons learned from this approach are a valuable resource that are passed on to Operators and can be applied early on in their planning stages to avoid unnecessary expenditure down the line.

Are there any personal triumphs you would like to share?
One of my favourite things we have applied at Xodus is taking a multidisciplinary and cross-project approach to problem-solving to save our clients time, as they are only dealing with one organisation. But I also think that the clarity we have managed to bring through data gap analysis studies – so that the path to decommissioning is clear and defined for all – and working with Operators to provide long-term decommissioning strategies, has enabled us to avoid unnecessary additional work whilst sticking within the regulatory requirements.

Is this clarity being matched by industry?
As an industry we have seen the streamlining of the regulatory approach, including the introduction of the Environmental Appraisal report, which is a focused document that identifies the key issues in each project ensuring good environmental performance as well driving efficiencies around time and cost.

That’s great, so what’s next?
I continue to be excited about what decommissioning offers, which includes starting to look at how the existing infrastructure may not need to be decommissioned but repurposed, potentially accelerating the energy transition. There is also a great potential to develop a supply chain which has a lot to offer, not just to the UK O&G market, but also to the International market, which is looking to the mature North Sea basin for guidance. We are currently working closely with Operators in Australia to develop a robust and fit for purpose Comparative Assessment process from Xodus’ UK based tool.

A key development in my specialist area that I think will deliver real efficiencies is the arrival of digital EIA. In particular this will enable us to focus our skills and experience on the project specific issues that really matter. As long as decommissioning is kept high on the agenda and the development of skills is encouraged within the supply chain, I think the future will be a bright one for the decommissioning sector.

Debs Morgan (Deborah.morgan@xodusgroup.com) was talking with the editors of XTRA about her experiences in North Sea decommissioning planning.

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