Brent Alpha, Bravo and Charlie Topside Decommissioning Programme approved

The Brent Decommissioning Project is committed to ensuring its key stakeholders are updated regularly on the progress of the Project, and the Decommissioning Programmes (DP).

As you are aware, the Brent Decommissioning Programmes described proposals for decommissioning the facilities in the Brent field, including proposals for decommissioning of the topsides of Brent Alpha, Brent Bravo and Brent Charlie (the Decommissioning Programme for the Brent Delta topsides having previously been approved in 2015). The Programmes were subject to public consultation between 8 February and 10 April 2017 and BEIS carried out a simultaneous consultation with other government departments.

The consultations provided the opportunity for consultees to raise comments on our topsides proposals. In accordance with UK decommissioning procedures BEIS had sight of our response to the comments raised by consultees in relation to topsides and informed us that they were satisfied that they have been addressed appropriately and that no further consideration of proposals for the topsides was required as full removal is mandatory under OSPAR Decision 98/3.

As is to be expected when decommissioning involves large steel jackets or concrete gravity based structures, BEIS consideration of decommissioning proposals for these structures occurs over an extended timeframe to enable a robust review. Removal of topsides has no bearing on identified options for decommissioning of the Brent Alpha jacket or the Brent Gravity Based Structures, and for the management of materials in the base of the GBS legs.

In these particular circumstances, and given the timeframe involved, BEIS has recognised that the execution of topsides removals can allow decommissioning to be executed cost effectively, to the benefit of the taxpayer, and without prejudice or compromise to the feasible decommissioning options for the jacket or GBS.

To this end, BEIS agreed that our topsides decommissioning proposals for Brent Alpha, Brent Bravo and Brent Charlie could be removed from the current Brent Decommissioning Programme and form a separate, topsides only Decommissioning Programme, We submitted this to BEIS, and they have now approved the Brent Alpha, Brent Bravo and Brent Charlie Topside only Decommissioning Programme, which is available  below.

There is no change to the OSPAR consultation process for the rest of the Brent Field Decommissioning Programme, and there is no change to any of the recommendations. We remain confident that our recommendations for the full field are safe, technically achievable, financially and socially responsible, and environmentally sound.

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 have submitted two Decommissioning Programmes (DP) in a single document. One DP covers the Brent installations and wells, and the other covers 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.

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 have 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.

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

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.

Access the Brent Field DP on the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) website.

Brent Delta Topside Decommissioning Programme

Following a 30 day public consultation in early 2015, the decommissioning programme for removal of the 24,200 tonne Brent Delta topside was approved by BEIS, formerly the Department of Energy and Climate Change in July 2015.

Find out more about the Brent Delta Topside DP.

More on Brent Field Decommissioning

Stakeholder Engagement

Learn more about who are we consulting with.

The Brent Story

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