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BLOG – 10.01.20

A collaborative approach to decommissioning

We asked our Decommissioning Manager, Gareth Jones, why he chose to follow the decommissioning path. Innovation, problem-solving and collaboration were top of his list, so we were interested to find out more.

Where are you seeing innovation in the projects and developments that you are working on?

There’s a lot going on just now!

The one that probably jumps out most recently in my mind is our offshore cable decommissioning option selection tool. We developed this from scratch in-house, it’s an automated decision logic tool which reviews certain attributes for your cable assets. Using the decision logic we built, it automatically generates recommended decommissioning options based on regulatory, technical, physical and biological characteristics. In the world of cables this has brought significant time savings for reviewing cable asset portfolios and allows quick review and verification of proposed decommissioning programmes and associated decommissioning estimates.

We can also use the tool to screen and identify the risks with a potential new cable, much like a competitive assessment screening tool but for a much earlier stage of the project when there is no physical data to work with. This gives Clients a platform to visualize where their asset is going to be located and any constraints there might be, what the potential decommissioning options are and their associated costs.

We think this is a good fit for oil and gas, initially for non-derogation projects, with the first pass being for pipelines. Developing innovative tools like this is an exciting process and they always open up so many opportunities. There are a few more complexities and hurdles to overcome – but watch this space!

With decommissioning within the UKCS going strong, where are you still finding opportunities to problem solve?

Well with everything we have learnt within the UKCS we are looking to emerging decommissioning markets. With regulatory changes occurring in Australia, it is looking really interesting.

The Australian regulator has released a new policy document around their regulations and guidance, which is pushing for more evidence on the operator’s assets and decommissioning strategy, and ultimately the associated costs. This drive is because the government has recently had to take on the decommissioning liability for some projects where the operator has gone out of business. Australia doesn’t have anything similar to the North Sea’s Section 29 legislation in place.

Our comparative assessment tool is an ideal solution to help with this as it provides a robust methodology for assessing the decommissioning options, providing justification and financial information for each of these. It gives the stakeholders clarity around the whole process, building trust and openness in the project being proposed. However, the key problem solving comes in when developing it to fit with the Australian legislation.

Working in Australia allows us to really cherry-pick the good parts of what we do in the UK and in Europe but also take some of the learnings around what hasn’t worked so well and hopefully avoid the same pitfalls. It is really helpful to be working closely with NERA on how we share this information. The webinar we hosted earlier this month, bringing NERA and operators from Australia and the UK together, went down really well and we’re looking to hopefully do similar webinars going forward looking at a range of decommissioning topics.

You mentioned collaboration as something you enjoy about decom, do you feel there’s enough collaboration, or do you feel the word is used but little is happening?

On the supply chain side, we are definitely seeing groups of suppliers working together to deliver projects, as there are very few true one-stop shops. Contractually this is challenging. True collaboration would be if the contracts piece didn’t get in the way quite so much, but that’s difficult to achieve.

In lots of ways it’s much easier for operators to collaborate as they can often navigate some of the same contractual hurdles we in the Supply Chain have. Its more about a shift in mindset, being open to sharing data with each other and their chosen suppliers. It’s been a long journey, but we are starting to see some progress in the sector with a number of shared lessons learnt portals and HSE learnings being shared between operators, the supply chain with the OGA, Decom North Sea and OneDecom.

Another area where we are starting to see collaboration is in adopting a campaign approach – the real benefit will come when multiple operators rather than just one operator adopt a campaign approach to their infrastructure. This would be a very real and tangible benefit and hopefully the start of things to come.

If you could leave the industry with one piece of advice what would it be?

I think a big misconception within industry is that you can just delay decom until the very last minute, but this means it is very expensive and slow. Plan earlier, invest in improving your data to understand your assets and spend money on corrective maintenance as your asset moves through its life cycle. It is important for Operators to adopt a maintenance programme with a decom focus in the last 10 years – you don’t need to just be doing the same maintenance programme you’ve been doing for the whole of its operational phase. Identify what you don’t have to maintain and invest in what you will need for decommissioning.

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