The meeting was an opportunity for members to put their own views forward and discuss each other’s perspectives on the results, as well as to hear an update from Shell on its assessment of the cell management options.

The CMSTG was formed in 2011 to help inform Shell and ExxonMobil’s decision making on the cells and to ensure wider stakeholder confidence in the final recommendation. In the past four years a number of plenary workshops and one-to-one meetings have taken place to explore at a deeper level the issues surrounding the cell contents and management options. 

At the heart of these discussions has been a desire to obtain actual samples from the storage cells. Task Group members felt this would improve understanding of the physical and chemical properties of the cell sediment and enable Shell to validate or modify the assumptions about the sediment properties that had previously been modelled.

After several attempts, samples were finally obtained in 2014 and then put through extensive, independent laboratory analysis. Duncan Manning, Business Opportunity Manager, said: “Throughout the summer we met with individual members of the CMSTG to share these lab results and discuss some of the implications for cell management options. One of the recurring themes was a desire for a plenary discussion so members could hear each other’s perspectives on the cell sample results. They also told us they wanted to hear more about our comparative assessment work.”

The majority of CMSTG members met in Aberdeen on Friday, 27 November. The meeting agenda provided the opportunity to discuss the cell sample results as well as to hear from representatives of BMT Cordah, DNV and Shell about the comparative assessment work. Representatives of the Independent Review Group (IRG) also spoke about their involvement in the planning and review of the cell sampling.

Duncan said: “People were genuinely appreciative that we had finally managed to obtain sediment samples. They acknowledged that the physical and chemical properties were largely in line with our modelling assumptions and welcomed the extra testing having been added to the analysis programme at the request of stakeholders. They also discussed a number of inconsistencies in the results and expressed their desire to understand them better.”

While some CMSTG members expressed an appetite for further samples, there was also recognition of the considerable technical challenges involved in obtaining them. Participants acknowledged that further samples would serve primarily to provide additional comfort rather than being a prerequisite for moving towards a decision.

The discussion about the comparative assessment work allowed the group to consider the relative safety, environmental, technical feasibility, societal and cost impacts of the five options under consideration, and to understand how the sediment properties impacted the options. The group also touched on wider issues such as how cumulative effects on the marine environment are considered more broadly, not only of decommissioning but also wider industry activity.

Reflecting on the meeting Duncan said: “We continue to really appreciate the investment our CMSTG members are making in the project and their taking the time to meet with us, individually and collectively, to share their views and opinions. It is extremely helpful to hear their reflections and input as we move forward.

“I was also reminded of the challenge we have to communicate the complex technical issues of our project and the need to talk in a language people can readily understand.”

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