Retiring to the Coast - the Rise of Decommissioning

26th February 2018

In the carefree exuberance of youth, nobody thinks about old age. But then a life is lived, many years pass, and retirement quietly creeps closer and closer.

For many of the giant rigs standing in the North Sea, retirement is imminent or already underway. Having pumped oil and gas from beneath the sea-bed for many decades, the rigs won’t be useful for much longer. This is because the area’s fossil fuel reserves are diminishing and the price of oil remains considerably lower than it was prior to the dramatic drop of 2014; the costs of operating and maintaining the oil and gas fields have, in many cases, surpassed the profits they yield. Retirement has been quietly creeping up on the old rigs, and now their time has come.

The retirement of a rig is an expensive and complex business. It has to be painstakingly dismantled in a process called decommissioning: Wells are plugged, pipelines are dug up, concrete and metal structures are broken down, and all the paraphernalia involved in the job of oil and gas extraction is picked apart and brought inland by ship for recycling or disposal.

The North Sea decommissioning industry is growing quickly and keeping the shipping companies very busy. It is likely that there will be an increase in demand for recycling and waste management services on the UK’s eastern coastline, which will bring new investment opportunities and jobs. Many ports including Blyth, Shetland, Dundee, Lerwick and Aberdeen are scaling up their operations in response to the growing decommissioning industry, by investing in stronger and longer quaysides, storage facilities and specialist lifting equipment to handle decommissioned materials.

The offshore industry in the North Sea is changing rapidly but it seems certain that there will be a high level of activity there over the coming years. The Geos Group (Sea Bunkering) will be supplying a lot of the marine fuel to power this activity, and we will continue to support our customers as their businesses evolve.