Why is Shell decommissioning the Brent Field?

After 40 years of operations, almost all the economically recoverable reserves of oil and gas have been produced, and in line with UK legislation, the Brent Field will now be decommissioned. The decision to decommission Brent is a natural step in the life cycle of the field.

Explore the Brent Story

What is the Brent Field Decommissioning Programmes document?

As the operator of the Brent Field, Shell must submit Decommissioning Programmes to The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), for review, followed by public consultation, as part of the extensive approval process. 

In accordance with legislation we will submit two Decommissioning Programmes (DP) in a single document. One DP will cover the Brent installations and wells, and the other will cover the Brent Field Pipelines. Our DP document will include the recommendations for closing down and making safe the four platforms, the wells and the subsea infrastructure.  Anyone who has an interest in the proposals can comment on these by using the link or downloadable form below.

The DP documents are supported by a suite of detailed Technical Documents (TDs) for each aspect of the programme; an Environmental Statement (ES); a Comparative Assessment (CA) process; and a Stakeholder Engagement Report.

Decommissioning in the UK Continental Shelf follows a mature and tightly defined regulatory process that is stipulated in the UK’s Petroleum Act 1998.

Brent Field CGI Highres

What is in the Brent Field Decommissioning Programmes document?

Shell has been preparing for the following decommissioning activities:

  • plugging and making safe the 154 wells across the Brent Field;
  • removing to shore, and recycling the platform’s topsides;
  • recovering oil and gas debris from the seabed across the Brent Field;
  • removing the oil –known as ‘attic oil’ – trapped at the top of some of the subsea storage cells; and
  • cutting the upper portion of the Brent Alpha steel jacket, and removing to shore for recycling.

After completing the comparative assessment process of feasible decommissioning options, and as a result of careful and considered evaluation, the recommendations being proposed include leaving in place the Gravity Base Structures (GBS), Brent Alpha footings, the drill cuttings and GBS cell contents.

A range of options has been considered for the 28 pipelines, including: complete removal; cutting and sealing the ends; leaving in place with a covering of rock; and leaving in place after trenching and burying.

Once public consultation has closed, Shell will review the responses submitted and, as appropriate, update the DP document for resubmission to BEIS.

Where the Decommissioning Programmes recommend leaving some of the infrastructure in place, the UK Government will then consult with other countries that are signatories to the OSPAR Convention. The OSPAR convention is an agreement between 15 European countries and the EU to protect the marine environment in the North-East Atlantic. The UK must consult with other members of OSPAR if it is considering approval to leave any infrastructure in the North Sea.

OSPAR recognises that there are difficulties associated with removing major installations, such as concrete Gravity Base Structures and large steel jackets. In these instances, operators may make a case for exemption – or derogation – from the general rule of complete removal from the sea but they must demonstrate that there are significant reasons why an alternative option is preferable to reuse, recycling or final disposal on land.

Shell and Esso are confident the proposals set out in the DP document are safe, technically achievable, financially and socially responsible, and environmentally sound. These recommendations are the result of 10 years of review and planning, including extensive research involving engineering studies, independent experts’ input, consultations and scientific assessments.

Under current legislation, Shell and Esso will retain ownership of and responsibility for any remaining facilities after decommissioning.

Who has Shell engaged with?

Since 2007 Shell has conducted extensive stakeholder engagement, and received input from more than 400 individuals from more than 180 organisations in the UK and Europe.

View Brent field Stakeholder's engagment

In addition, the Brent Decommissioning project established an expert panel of scientists, the Independent Review Group (IRG), to verify the technical and engineering studies that were used to develop our proposals.

Find out more about the role of the IRG and read their final report on the project.

View IRG page

How can I comment on the Decommissioning Programmes or supporting Technical Documents?

The Brent Field Decommissioning Programmes document and full suite of supporting Technical Documents are available in the below table.

You will also be able to submit any feedback, queries or comments to the team online, or by downloading a form for completion at a later date. These can be accessed using the below area.

If you would prefer you can contact the team by email at Brentinfo@shell.com

When does the public consultation period end?

At the request of stakeholders, Shell has doubled the public consultation period from the statutory 30 days, to 60 days to provide more time to fully review the extensive documentation.  Anyone who has an interest in the proposals will be able to comment.

The consultation period will draw to a close on 10 April 2017.

Brent Field Decommissioning Programme and Supporting Documentation

This diagram of a pyramid shows an overview of the hierarchy of the documentation for the Brent Field Decommissioning programme

This image shows the suite of documentation for the Brent Field Decommissioning Programmes. The Technical Documents are designed to be read after the Decommissioning Programme document, supplementing it and providing detail to the facts, assessments and conclusions presented in the Decommissioning Programme.

More on Brent Field Decommissioning

The Brent Story

Learn more about the Brent Field, our history and why we are now moving towards decommissioning the field.