Decommissioning the brent field

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213492: 82444 - IMechE stakeholder event

Accessibility script for 82444_v1.2_Approval_16x9.mp4

Duration: 01:14:13

[Video footage]

Still of Brent Field

Programme title in white box

Shell Pecten



Duncan Manning / Alistair Hope

Business Opportunity Manager / Project Director

Stephen Tetlow in vision

“Ladies and gentlemen, a very good evening to you…”

Fade out of opening screen

Stephen Tetlow in vision

“…and welcome to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and to this manifestly very popular lecture this evening. My name's Stephen Tetlow, I'm the Chief Executive of the Institution. It's the second of our series of Shell lectures; lectures being done with the Institution and Shell.”

Medium close-up at lectern


Stephen Tetlow

Chief Executive, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Stephen Tetlow voice over

“Anyway, welcome to this…”

[Video footage]

A group of people across two rows of the audience

Stephen Tetlow in vision

“…lecture this evening. What we're looking to do is to really showcase the enormous global engineering challenge there is to decommissioning, and particularly in the UK. I'm not going to talk much at all now. You'll hear much more about that later. But what we are looking at is something in the region of a £47 billion global issue over the next 20 years, and the engineering challenges are absolutely immense. But then again, as in all great engineering challenges, the opportunities are also immense too. So I hope it's going to be a really, really interesting evening to you, and I'd just like to introduce our two speakers. Alistair Hope is Project Director for Brent Decommissioning for Shell, one of the largest and most complex projects in the North Sea today. Alistair has nearly 24 years' professional experience in Shell. That's both in Upstream, Downstream, gas power and in various research roles. He's worked in the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines and UK, and his experience covers all aspects of oil and gas project development as well as operations, maintenance, new business development and HSE roles. He is, I'm delighted to say, a Chartered Engineer, and has a PhD in materials engineering from Cambridge. I'd also like to introduce Duncan Manning. Duncan is Brent Decommissioning Business Opportunity Manager for Shell Upstream International. Duncan will be our first speaker. Duncan joined Shell in 2013 after 19 years of service in the Royal Marines from where he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. He had a very varied and successful career which saw him fulfil a number of appointments, as well as selection and attendance at the United States Marine Corps University for a period of study there. He completed three operational tours in Afghanistan and was responsible for planning and delivering a national level specialist response during the 2012 Olympic Games. In addition to a degree from the University of Aberdeen in geography and international relations, Duncan also holds a master’s degree from the US Marine Corps University. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute where he is also qualified in strategic direction and leadership. So Alistair, and now Duncan, we very much welcome you here and look forward to your talk. After your talk, we'll then gather on the stage and there'll be plenty of opportunities for questions. So Duncan, welcome. Thank you very much.”

Medium close at lectern; same continuous shot as Stephen Tetlow leaves the stage, Duncan Manning comes onto and to lectern



Duncan Manning in vision

“Thank you, Stephen. Thank you for the opportunity to provide a presentation to you tonight, on what is, for Shell, the largest decommissioning project that Shell has ever undertaken, and, as Stephen said, amongst the largest in the North Sea. As I joined the project three years ago, the parallels between Brent Decommissioning and the Olympic Games were increasingly evident, the longer I stayed in the project team. I'll tell you what they are at the end of the lecture, and keep you on a knife edge.”

Medium close-up at lectern


Duncan Manning

Business Opportunity Manager

Duncan Manning voice over

“This is a large and complex d

Decommissioning project. It's large and complex for a number of reasons. Firstly, the location of the platforms…”

[Video footage]


Background still of Brent field

Heading: A complex major engineering project

Three text boxes at bottom of screen

Left box


  • Delta 2011

  • Alpha, Bravo 2014

  • Charlie TBC

Centre box


Alpha, Bravo & Charlie have multiple

interconnections & interdependencies

Right box

Heading: FACTS

  • 154 wells

  • 1 steel jacket

  • 4 topside (106kT)

  • GBS

  • 2 subsea locations

  • 28 pipelines

Duncan Manning in vision

“…in the northern North Sea. Difficult to get to, and once you're there, actually you're constrained, particularly for overside work, by a narrow weather window to operate in. It's also complex because, unlike many decommissioning projects which you're required to work on one platform at a time, we've been asked to submit one decommissioning programme for all four platforms. But it's not just all four platforms. It's all four platforms, 154 wells, 28 pipelines, two subsea locations. And those four platforms are of three different designs.”

Full wide of stage showing Institution of Technical Engineers logo, full slide, three chairs underneath the slide and speaker at lectern

Camera re-frame: during this delivery, slow zoom in to medium close-up of speaker at lectern

Duncan Manning voice over

“So you can see from the slide here, three of the platforms are gravity base structures, or GBS, and one is a more traditional steel jacket. The fact that there's three different designs and four platforms means effectively each platform needs to be looked at individually.”

[Video footage]

Brent Field slide above full screen

Duncan Manning in vision

“The complexity is also added to the fact that the platforms are at a slightly different stage of their end of field life. So you can see here that Brent Alpha, Bravo and Delta have ceased production, but Brent Charlie continues to produce. I flew off on Brent Charlie a fortnight ago, and the size and complexity really hit home on that flight out. An hour flight north of Shetland on a helicopter, you start to over fly Brent Alpha first of all. And at the time it had the second largest semi-submersible crane vessel just off the platform, in fact, dwarfing the platform conducting a change out of the crane on the platform and removing the production module, ready to start the reservoir isolation campaign. We then flew over Brent Bravo, and it was conducting at the time a very successful plug and make safe campaign, again isolating that reservoir. And then we landed on Brent Charlie, still a producing platform, but starting to focus on what it needs to do to get the platform ready for efficient decommissioning. And on the horizon, just within eyeshot, is Brent Delta, which at the time is going through the process of preparing itself for that lift that you saw in the film, and also conducting the attic oil recovery. So all four platforms are actually a hive of activity and are at maximum capacity and have been for a number of years. So there is real complexity here. But it also provides an opportunity. The opportunity is to learn, as we move between the platforms, and become better and more efficient, as we move off Brent Delta, which is the first to be lifted, and then on to Bravo, Alpha and in time, Brent Charlie. And because it is so large and complex, it's one of the reasons we've spent such a long time externally engaging with stakeholders …”

Medium close-up at lectern

Camera: re-frame, very slight re-frame during this delivery

Duncan Manning voice over

“…to understand their views. And we've engaged with over 180 organisations, and over 300 one-to-one engagements have been conducted. I've travelled the length and breadth of the country to conduct these one-to-one engagements, to understand what the views of stakeholders are, to allow us to explain what …”

[Video footage]


Heading: Working with others to find a solution

Across bottom of slide a graph timeline: 2006 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017

Top left, five drawings grouped in two rows, across top row:

Calendar with 2007 in large figures, smaller text unreadable; a table from above with a person seated either side, on table 300+ in large letters, smaller text unreadable; a desk day calendar, 15 in large figures, smaller text unreadable

Across bottom row:

Two people approaching a reception desk, receptionist behind desk, on front of desk 14 in large figures, smaller text unreadable; a woman standing indicating a board to her left as if making a presentation, on board 100+ in large figures, smaller text unreadable

Line with arrow downwards from this group to text: Ongoing engagement

Below that is a dotted line, below that is beginning of graph timeline, 2006

Next to the dotted line is a thicker line continuously running to end of timeline

From section of thick line above next point on timeline, 2012, four arrows going upwards to text: CMSTG events; above that drawing of two people walking toward a reception desk, receptionist behind desk

From section of thick line above next point on timeline, 2013, single arrow going upwards to same representation of CMSTG event; single arrow goes up from that to text: Stakeholder 121s; above drawing of two people seen from above either side of a table

From section of thick line above next point on timeline, between 2012 and 2013, single arrow going up to text: Stakeholder events; above which is drawing of two people walking towards reception desk, receptionist behind desk

From section of thick line above next point on timeline, 2014, single arrow goes up to text; Cell sampling completed on Brent Delta; above that a drawing of a Brent platform

From section of thick line above next point on timeline, between 2014 and 2015, single going up to text: Production ceases on Brent Alpha and Bravo; above that drawing of a Brent platform

From section of thick line above next point on timeline, further along between 2014 and 2015, three arrows going up, spreading out at top to on left, text: Media trip to Brent Delta; above that drawing of press photographer; centre, text: Brent Alpha P&L begins; above that drawing of a Brent platform; right, text: Stakeholder 121s; above drawing of two people seen from above either side of a table

From section of thick line above next point on timeline, 2015, single arrow going up to text: Approval of Brent Delta topside DP; above that drawing of Brent platform

From section of thick line above next point on timeline, between 2015 and 2016, single arrow going to text: CMSTG events; above that drawing of two people walking toward a reception desk, receptionist desk

From section of thick line above next point on timeline, further along between 2015 and 2016, single arrow going up to text: Stakeholder 121s; above drawing of two people seen from above either side of a table – text this time in red

Timeline continues off beyond 2017 breaks up into dots and ends with an arrow pointing off slide towards the future

Bottom left text: Copyright of Shell UK Limited

Duncan manning in vision

“…we are doing, what we plan to do and gain their insight and understand their concerns as we move forward. We've also conducted, as you can see here, 14 wider stakeholder events. We've had all the stakeholders in one room, explained what we're currently doing and what we plan to do, and again, let them listen to the views of the other stakeholders in that room.”

Wide shot showing bottom left corner of slide screen, two chairs below it, speaker at lectern

Camera re-frame: during this delivery, slight camera move up

Duncan Manning voice over

“Because, of course, each stakeholder, whether it's an academic, a quango, a government organisation, a fisherman or environmentalist will all be looking at the project through their own lens…”

[Video footage]

Working to Find a Solution slide above full screen

Duncan manning in vision

“…and some of those lenses are quite different. And, of course, we know that there's unlikely to be one solution which provides a one-size-fits-all proposal which is going to be acceptable to all of our stakeholders. So it's finding that middle ground which is important to us and that's the importance of these wider stakeholder events. You can see here we've also spoken at a number of conferences to ensure that the lessons that we're learning in Brent Decommissioning are passed both to the other operators, but also to the supply chain, so that others get the benefit of what we've been doing in the Brent project.”

Same wide as above, camera now moves in to medium close of speaker at lectern

Duncan Manning voice over

“We divide decommissioning effectively into two components. The top part are those where there is pretty clear guidance or regulation in place, and it's really up to the operator to conduct the activity as safely and as efficiently as possible. So the first part of that is to isolate the reservoir from the surface, and to plug and make safe each of the wells. And whilst it's only one…”

[Video footage]


Heading: Elements of decommissioning

Top row:

Text on Shell Yellow box background: Actions determined by regulation followed by row of stills with text: engineer on platform with text – Wells: plug and make safe; aerial still of topsides with text – Topsides: remove and recycle; unidentified machinery with text – Debris and attic oils: remove

Bottom row:

Text on double sized Shell Yellow box background: Actions determined by regulation and comparative assessment followed by five stills with text, four in two horizontal rows, fifth at end double height: top row: superstructure on its side with text – jacket options; indistinct still, possibly a reflection in water with text – Drill cuttings; bottom row: wide still pipelay vessel with text – pipeline options; diagram of cell with text – Cell content options; fifth slide – diagram of platform, focus on oil storage cells with text – Gravity base structure options

Bottom left text: Copyright of Shell UK Limited

Bottom part of slide de-saturates to allow focus on top part

Duncan Manning in vision

“”…small element on this slide, this is the activity which actually takes up the vast majority of the time in decommissioning terms, but it also accounts for most of the spend in decommissioning terms. Alistair's going to talk in a bit more detail about the topside removal but also the attic oil recovery.”

Medium close-up at lectern

Duncan Manning voice over

“But the bottom part of the slide are those elements of decommissioning where the operator has to make a recommendation to the regulator through public consultation to determine what, on balance, makes most sense, and what, on balance, is the recommended option to push forward for decommissioning. And that's the phase that we're at at the moment. So we need to make a recommendation for what to do with all of the Brent Alpha Jacket…”

[Video footage]

Elements of decommissioning slide above

Bottom half of slide de-saturates to leave focus on top half

Duncan Manning in vision

“…what to do with the drill cuttings, what to do with the pipelines - there's 28 pipelines - but also what to do with the gravity base structure, both the structures themselves, but also the contents of those structures. This is a thorough and robust process where we not only take those five factors given to us by the regulator, but we've also subdivided these into 12 sub-criteria. You can see here that we work our way…”

Medium close-up at lectern

Camera re-frame: very slight during this delivery; at end of this delivery begins a pull out

Duncan Manning voice over

“…through a process of engaging both internally, but also externally, gauging and guessing the insights from the best minds in the industry to allow us to pull together all the data which will help make that recommendation. A key component for us in doing that is that Independent Review Group you can see in the middle right-hand element of the slide here. This Independent Review Group, nine eminent scientists and engineers…”

[Video footage]

Full screen slide

Heading: Comparative Assessment (CA)

Grey box top left with text:

CA Criteria

  • Safety

  • Environment

  • Technical Feasibility

  • Societal

  • Economic

Arrow from grey box to row of smaller grey boxes, each with text, row of yellow boxes, each with text, below row of grey boxes: grey box - DECC/OSPAR Guidelines; arrow down to a yellow box – Define Sub-criteria and Measures: grey box - Stakeholder Input, arrow down to yellow box – Screen Options: yellow box on its own – Describe Feasible Options: grey box – External Expert Workshops, next grey box – External Studies; both arrow down to yellow box – Data Gathering: underneath data gathering box two more grey boxes arrowing up into it – Internal Expert Workshops; Internal Studies

Arrowed red bar connects each yellow box, suggesting connection between each, feeds out of data gathering box and into line of yellow boxes below, right to left: Independent Technical Review; Create Global Scales; Transform Data; Weight Sub-Criteria

Arrowed red bar continues out from them into row of three yellow boxes below – CA Output; Sensitivity Analysis (above this box grey box with arrow feeding down into it – Stakeholder Input); final arrowed red bar pointing yellow box in deeper yellow – Recommended Option

Bottom left text: Copyright of Shell UK Limited

All of slide except Independent Technical Review box on second row desaturates, leaving focus on that text box alone

Duncan Manning in vision

“…led by Professor John Shepherd, provide the scrutiny of the science and engineering which underpins our recommendations, to make sure this isn't us making the science up to suit our own ends, but actually everything we do can be validated through this independent review group process. Of the 300 studies that we've conducted for the project, it's generated thousands of comments from the IRG which we need to respond to and close out, before we move forward.”

Full wide of stage showing Institution of Technical Engineers logo, full slide, three chairs underneath the slide and speaker at lectern

Duncan Manning voice over

“And this isn't just a data gathering exercise of data in and data out. Actually, the other key component for us is - you can see the second to last slide - is that engagement with stakeholders to understand whether the output from that comparative assessment process is that acceptable, does it meet their needs, and does it provide the output which is likely to be acceptable wider as we step into public consultation?”

[Video footage]

Comparative Assessment slide

Slide desaturates except for Sensitivity Analysis box, leaving focus on that text box alone; then full re-saturates

Duncan Manning in vision

“So breaking this down into the components of the project, the first of which is the Brent Alpha Jacket.”

Medium close of speaker at lectern

Duncan Manning voice over

“The Brent Alpha Jacket is over 31,000 tonnes. It therefore is a candidate for a derogation, that is, we can seek an exemption from the OSPAR convention which is aiming for a clean seabed.”

[Video footage]


Heading: Alpha Jacket

Left of slide text

  • Studies show that the whole jacket cannot be removed in one piece.

  • Therefore, our recommendation is that the upper jacket is removed.

  • Our recommendation for the Alpha Jacket footings: leave in place.

  • The Brent Alpha Jacket is an OSPAR derogation candidate.

Right of slide stills

Top: underwater coral growth (text at various points on still, too small to read)

Bottom: Brent Alpha Jacket

Bottom left text: Copyright of Shell UK Limited

Duncan Manning in vision

“We've done the studies on the Brent Alpha Jacket to understand whether it can be lifted in one piece, and the answer is, no it can't. So therefore the focus is the second, the deeper component, the footings which anchor the jacket to the seabed and how difficult it would be to remove that, and understanding the pros and cons associated with the removing of those footings. And you can see…”

Medium close at lectern

Duncan Manning voice over

”… the footings in the photograph, are the thicker sections of the jacket which anchor the jacket to the seabed. And our options are either to dig down into the seabed, excavate and then cut the footings, or bore through the tops of these footings and do an internal cut.”

[Video footage]

Alpha Jacket slide

Duncan Manning in vision

“On balance, our comparative assessment indicates to us that, actually, leaving the footings in place makes most sense, when you weigh up the technical difficulty associated with that cut, and then remove, the safety impact of the operation to conduct that, and the large cost associated with it, versus the very small, both environmental and safety impact of removing it.”

Medium close at lectern

Duncan Manning voice over

“The second component with the drill cuttings and the pipelines. And the drill cuttings are those shards of rock which are generated during the drilling phase of the platforms. And pre mid-1990s, these were lubricated with an oil-based mud, post mid-1990s…”

[Video footage]


Heading: Drill cuttings and pipelines

Left side text and computer model image

Drill cuttings

  • Our recommendation for undisturbed drill cuttings is: leave in place

  • Cuttings piles are within OSPAR levels.

  • We believe that it is the safest and most environmentally responsible solution.

  • Extensive industry and regulator studies on the impact of cutting piles.

Computer model image of sea bed

Right side text


  • There are 28 pipelines in the Brent Field decommissioning programme.

  • These pipelines are reviewed on an individual basis and categorised as either Qualitative or Quantitative.

  • A range of recommendations will be proposed for pipelines in the Brent Field depending on their size, location and configuration.

  • Options range from full removal to leave in place with remedial work.

  • Bypass plans have been put in place to support production from other fields post decommissioning.

Bottom left text: Copyright of Shell UK Limited

Duncan Manning in vision

“…it was a water-based mud. But regardless, the drill cuttings were discharged overside of the platform and have therefore accumulated at the base of the platform, mostly either on the GBS or have fallen down into the fissures in the GBS itself. The conclusion we've come to, again, balancing all those five options together, is, on balance, leaving the drill cuttings in place makes sense. The majority of our drill cuttings sit underneath the threshold determined by OSPAR. And that threshold indicates the level of hydrocarbon leach rate which is acceptable. Most of our drill cuttings are below that. For those that are above it, we've done a comparative assessment, which again indicates that leaving the drill cuttings in place and not disturbing them, actually, on balance, is the right thing to do. Of the 28 pipelines in the field, these vary in size from 3 inches up to beyond 30 inches in diameter. These are either laid on the seabed, or buried under the seabed. And each pipeline has been looked at individually to determine what, on balance, is the best option for those, and there were nine options looked at. I won't talk about those in detail, but we've come to the conclusion that actually there is a range of proposed options for us to carry forward. And that's carrying forward of both a qualitative and a quantitative comparative assessment proposal. We're also mindful that we need to delink ourselves from the export pipeline for those non-Brent platforms upstream of us that need to maintain their export pipeline and allow them to continue to export oil and gas. And so there is a separate project which will do that bypass and allow the other platforms in the northern North Sea to continue to extract oil and gas and export that to shore.”

Medium close up at lectern

Duncan Manning voice over

“Whilst there are over 470 installations in the UK Continental Shelf, to be decommissioned, a small proportion of those are gravity base structures, GBS. You can see here nine operational in the UK. And these are very large structures. The legs themselves are over 170m high, over a metre thick of reinforced concrete, over 300,000 tonnes in weight for each of the GBS. This has generated a lot of focus for us to understand how difficult it would be, or how easy it would be, to refloat these GBS.”

[Video footage]


Heading: Gravity base structure

Left side text

  • Each Brent GBS weighs approximately 300,000 tonnes – equivalent to almost the same weight as the Empire State Building in New York.

  • Our recommendation for GBS: leave in place.

  • Removal feasible but technically very difficult and requires several years technology development, also a very tangible risk to personnel.

  • Low level long-term risk to other users of the sea outweighed by immediate risk to project personnel.

  • No environmental benefit.

  • Structures will be marked with an aid to navigation, added to the FishSAFE database and a safety zone will remain in place.

Right side still of platform looking up from base of structure towards platform, at bottom two text boxes, white with yellow line at tops: text – 27 GBSs in the OSPAR region; 9 GBSs operational in the UK

Duncan Manning in vision

“As a reminder, these platforms were put in place in the mid-1970s with a lifespan of 25 years, 40 years ago. Refloating them wasn't a consideration at the time, so we've spent a lot of effort to understand whether it is technically possible to do that, and the conclusion is whilst it may be technically possible to refloat them, actually the technical complexity associated with that, the very high safety risk associated with that, the very high cost associated with that, doesn't outweigh the minimal environmental impact of leaving inert concrete and steel on the seabed or the very small safety hazard of leaving the legs up. We have also done separate studies on cutting and lifting the legs, but also conducted engagement with the key stakeholders, in this respect, which is the fishermen, and their preference is to leave the legs up. What you can see, you can avoid.”

Full wide of stage showing Institution of Technical Engineers logo, full slide, three chairs underneath the slide and speaker at lectern

Camera re-frame: during this delivery, slow zoom in to medium close of speaker at lectern

Duncan Manning voice over

“This is a conclusion other operators have also come to, and whilst the proposal is to leave the gravity base structures up and the legs in place, we will of course ensure that the legs are both marked on maritime charts, marked in the fishermen's FishSAFE system, but also we have aids to navigations which will be on the top of the legs to ensure that mariners are safe at all times.”

[Video footage]


Heading: Precedent

Three columns

Left column, text heading – Total’s Frigg platform: two stills below, top still showing fortified mounts and vessel in background; bottom still showing fortified mounts, platform and various other objects, indistinguishable, with text labels, also indistinguishable

Centre column, text heading – ConocoPhillips’s Ekofisk platform; two stills below, top still full platform, bottom still platform base

Right column, text heading - Maunsell forts; below a still and a text box, still of Maunsell forts, text box below, seven bulleted points, text indistinguishable

Bottom left text: Copyright of Shell UK Limited

Duncan Manning in vision

“We have done a separate study to understand what the collision risk on these platforms is, and it's about one collision every 10,000 years, so well under ALARP, and that assessment was made on some very conservative assumptions. You can see…”

Medium close up of speaker at lectern

Duncan Manning voice over

“…also on the slide that there is, littered around the UK coastline, a number of other legacy - both industrial and military - structures, not dissimilar to the legs on Brent.”

[Video footage]

Precedent slide above

Duncan Manning in vision

“One of our probably more unique elements within Brent decommissioning is the contents of the gravity base structures.”

Medium close up of speaker at lectern

Duncan Manning voice over

“You can see here that the structures themselves have 64 cells. These cells are about 60m high, about the same height as Nelson's Column and about 20m in diameter. And again, much like the legs, these are nearly one metre thick reinforced concrete. And the cells were used to store and separate the crude oil during the production phase, and it was during that production phase that sediment has effectively settled at the base of the cells.”

[Video footage]


Heading: Brent cell contents

Left side text:

There are 64 cells in the Brent Field, 42 of which have been used for oil storage and separation

  • Each cell is 60m tall, 20m wide by almost 1m thick

  • They are made of concrete reinforced with steel rebar

These 42 cells contain:

  • Attic oil

  • “Interphase” oil/water layer

  • Water

  • Sediment

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