What is your role at Xodus?
I’m an Environmental Consultant at Xodus. Day to day I’m involved in a number of different scopes and areas of industry, including decommissioning. Within decommissioning specifically, we prepare Environmental Appraisals in support of asset Decommissioning Programmes which are submitted to OPRED. Once we’ve established the baseline physical, ecological and societal environment, we consider the impacts decommissioning may have on these individual receptors. This requires knowledge of the development infrastructure and removal methodology (which the Comparative Assessment process advises), so it’s a collaborative effort between engineers and environmental consultants. From 2020-2022 Xodus prepared 17 of 27 approved North Sea Environmental Appraisals in support of Decommissioning Programmes!
What is the most interesting project you have been involved in while at Xodus?
One of the first projects I worked on at Xodus was a suite of Environmental Appraisals for an international operator. It was a big workscope and, with the assets being spread throughout the North Sea, covered a range of different environments. Coming from an ecology background, it was the first time I had really seen the practical industry application of that scientific understanding. Decommissioning requires an integrated approach across disciplines, and I’ve learned so much from the engineers I’ve had the opportunity to work with. I’ve also been part of some really interesting Southern North Sea morphological workscopes. Given how dynamic the environment is, we’ve been answering questions on the presence of infrastructure decommissioned in situ and how it may interact with the physical environment and other users of the sea in the long-term.
Decommissioning by it’s very existence represents the end of our industry, isn’t it counter intuitive for young people to get involved in this industry?
Not at all! In fact, it’s a really exciting area to be involved in right now. The decommissioning process is relatively well established in UK waters with regards to oil and gas assets and shows no sign of slowing down – there are a lot of assets yet to be decommissioned. And not to mention the more newly established oil and gas decom sectors in other geographies, such as Australia. We can support these new industries from a distance but there are also exciting opportunities to work in-country. Additionally, in recent years there has been a push for expansion of the renewables sector in the UK. Even in advance of consent being granted to an offshore windfarm, an early decommissioning plan is required. Xodus have recently been assisting offshore wind developers by reviewing these plans prior to submission. Just within the past few months Xodus, as part of a joint initiative with Decom North Sea and OEUK, have launched the Emerging Professionals in Late Life & Decommissioning network which aims to support the career development of individuals moving into this growing sector.
What is the biggest challenge the industry is facing?
Looking forwards, I think implementing lessons learned from decommissioning in the oil and gas sector in other industries (like offshore wind) will be key. Oil and gas decommissioning within the UK has undergone much streamlining to date and it’s important that we make the best of that knowledge to ensure a smooth transition in other industries and across other geographies. As we continue to diversify our energy sources, I would expect increased emphasis on reuse of existing infrastructure in support of novel projects which can enhance the energy transition, such as carbon capture and storage. I also think that in coming years we will see an increase in the discussion surrounding the pros and cons of removal options versus decommissioning infrastructure in situ with respect to the environment.