The Process

Where is the Brent Field?

The Brent Field is situated 186km (116 miles) offshore, north-east of Lerwick, Scotland, at a water depth of 140m (460ft), and consists of four large platforms; Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta. 

When did it start production and what has been the production during its lifetime?

The Brent Field was discovered in 1971. Oil production began in 1975, and continued until 2001. Then, following a £1.2 billion Long-Term Field Development (LTFD) project in the mid 1990s, Brent became predominantly a gas field. The Brent Field has been in service for the UK for more than 35 years and it has produced around 2 billion barrels of oil and 5.7 trillion cubic feet of gas (2008), a total of some 3 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

How much oil and gas has been recovered from Brent?

It has produced around 2 billion barrels of oil and 5.7 trillion cubic feet of gas (2008), a total of some 3 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

What have Shell done to maximize the production potential of Brent?

Shell will be recovering all the oil and gas that is technically and economically viable.

Following a £1.2 billion Long-Term Field Development (LTFD) project in the mid 1990s, Brent became predominantly a gas field. This considerably extended its life. This Long-Term Field Development (LTFD) project was the largest and most comprehensive field redevelopment ever undertaken in the UK North Sea. More recently, advances in technology have made possible the development of the challenging satellite Penguins field, some 65km to the North.

It has seen very high levels of hydrocarbon recovery and it has been in service for more than three decades, exceeding its original planned lifetime by many years. It continues to produce today, and will do so for some years to come.

What is decommissioning?

Decommissioning is the process by which options for the physical removal and disposal of structures at the end of their working life are assessed; a plan of action is formulated by the operator, approved by government and then implemented. The overall timescale for this is several years, as it needs to take into account many diverse factors and involves many organisations.

How long will decommissioning of the Brent facilities take?

Decommissioning is a multi-phase, multi-year process. Shell and Esso began the long-term planning necessary for the final phase of Brent and Penguins field life in 2006. We recognised then that this is a huge, complex and technically challenging undertaking that is likely to span more than a decade from the time the first platform [Brent Delta] commences decommissioning.

Why does Brent have to be decommissioned?

As Brent continues to produce, the field depletes and, over many years of production, has moved from providing some 10% of the UK’s gas consumption to around 2%. We are at stage when the flow of oil and gas from Brent Delta has reached a point at which it is no longer viable to run the field.

When will the Brent platforms cease production?

The final Cessation of Production (CoP) dates for the Brent facilities will be based on a range of operational and market factors, such as commodity prices and capital and operating costs. The Brent Delta platform reached CoP in December 2011 and Alpha and Bravo reached CoP in November 2014.

What happens to the Brent pipeline system, which exports oil from other fields?

The Brent system will continue to operate, as will the FLAGS gas export system.

What happens to the Brent crude marker price once the Brent Field is decommissioned?

Dated Brent/BFOE reference price already refers to a number of crudes i.e. Brent, Forties, Oseberg and Ekofisk.  Brent makes up a decreasing and small amount of North Sea production (currently around 1%) and is the lowest volume grade in the BFOE pool of grades.

When eventually Brent ceases to produce, the marker crude price for the North Sea will continue but it may relate to a reduced pool of grades or different basket of crudes and the name may change This will be a matter for industry to decide in due course. However expect BFOE or a version thereof to continue as the marker crude.

How much will Brent decommissioning cost?

Depending on the final scope / options for the project it is expected that the costs will be several billion pounds. A more accurate estimate will be possible once all aspects of the decommissioning programme have been determined.

What will happen to redundant pipelines?

It is too early to say, as decommissioning options are still being studied and no decisions have yet been made. Shell will be taking account of the safety risks, engineering challenges, and societal and environmental impacts and financial considerations, to find balanced solutions.

Will the facilities come ashore? If so where?

Able UK in Teesside has been awarded a contract to reuse and recycle materials from the topsides. There is a target of at least 97% reuse and recycling for all topsides material.

What is the process for the decommissioning programme?

Further information on the process for the decommissioning programme can be found in the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change Guidance for Decommissioning of Offshore Installations and Pipelines under the Petroleum Act 1998.

What is OSPAR Convention and what does it state w.r.t. Decommissioning?

The OSPAR Convention is the current legal instrument guiding international cooperation on the protection of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic. Work under the Convention is managed by the OSPAR Commission, made up of representatives of the Governments of 15 Contracting Parties and the European Commission, representing the European Community. [Source OSPAR web site].

The 1992 OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR)

The ‘1992 OSPAR Convention’ replaced both the Oslo and Paris Conventions, with the intention of providing a comprehensive and simplified approach to addressing all sources of pollution which might affect the maritime area.

OSPAR 98/3 OSPAR Decision on the disposal of disused offshore installations was passed at Ministerial Meeting of the OSPAR Commission, Sintra; 22-23 July, 1998.

OSPAR Decision 98/3 decision indicates:– Prohibits dumping of offshore installations at sea (Article 2 “the dumping, and leaving wholly or partly in place, of disused offshore installations within the maritime area is prohibited.” This is adopted in the applicable UK legislation).

Presumption that offshore installations will be removed entirely.

Recognises difficulties removing footings of steel jackets >10,000 tonnes (pre 1999), and concrete substructures, and therefore allows for derogation from Decision 98/3.

Derogations will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Who approves the decommissioning programme?

The UK Government Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is the competent authority on decommissioning in the UK.


Are stakeholders being consulted about the proposed activity?

Engagement with a wide range of interested parties began in early 2007 and thirteen dialogue events have been held since then. Our stakeholders include local and national environmental groups, Fisherman’s associations, key government agencies, national and local government, unions, industry bodies and academics.

Through the consultation process, we aim to find the safest and best environmental, social and economically responsible technical solution for the future of the Brent Field.

The stakeholder dialogue sessions are independently facilitated by The Environment Council, and now by its sister organisation Resources for Change, and fully reported on the Brent website.

Who are the stakeholders and how are they kept informed?

Our stakeholders include local and national environmental groups, Fisherman’s associations, key government agencies, national and local government, unions, industry bodies and academics. They are kept informed via focused third party facilitated dialogue events, newsletters, direct contacts and via a dedicated website. Brent website lists all the stakeholder organisations invited to the dialogue events and those who attend our dialogue sessions.

How does the current engagement process differ from the Brent Spar decommissioning?

Shell learnt from the decommissioning of Brent Spar. These lessons have been taken into consideration and we are seeking input from stakeholders in an open dialogue to consider and understand differing stakeholder perspectives. Such an approach also enables us to engage, inform and explain complex issues. We are also engaging with stakeholders outside the UK. We are also communicating widely on the progress of our studies.

Working with others

Have contractors been identified for removal/ remediation? Is so, will UK firms benefit from this activity?

The Decommissioning Services Contract for Brent Delta the first platform to be decommissioned, was awarded in 2010.

We have strict contracting and procurement processes which will be followed as well as adhering to strict legal / EU requirements. Shell will adhere to Shell General Business Principles, Shell EPE Supply Chain Management procedures and comply with applicable regulations such as the EU Utilities Contracts Regulations 1996 in order to be able to ensure a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory vendor qualification and selection process.

Already UK consulting firms are involved extensively in a wide range of decommissioning studies for us and also a number of universities and academics are in engaged as a part of our stakeholder engagement process.

Safety and Environment

What are the possibilities for re-use of the facilities (eg for wind or tidal energy farms or other uses)?

Our studies of various re-use options suggest to us that there are no economically viable alternative uses for the Brent facilities, and that when production ceases to be economically viable the facilities will need to be decommissioned.

We have looked at a range of possible re-use options especially related to our business. For technical, economic and logistical reasons, none so far have shown potential to warrant further and more detailed study. If 3rd parties want to study other uses, we are prepared to discuss these. It should be noted that any such re-use potential options will have to accommodate the expensive maintenance and operational costs of these large facilities offshore as well as the ongoing decommissioning liabilities.

What are the environmental impacts from decommissioning and how will Shell manage them?

Shell will be taking account of the safety risks, engineering challenges, and societal and environmental impacts and financial considerations, to find balanced solutions to the many challenges the decommissioning project will face. This will require thorough engagement with a broad cross-section of stakeholders over the next few years. A full Environmental Impact Assessment is being prepared by DNV.

Shell and Esso are committed to decommissioning facilities in accordance with government legislation and in compliance with the OSPAR Decision 98/3.

The selected decommissioning option will ensure that the project’s Health, Safety & Environment targets are not jeopardised and all legal requirements are complied with.  We will adhere to DECC’s guidance notes on decommissioning.

What measures have been adopted to mitigate safety risks to personnel during decommissioning?

Throughout decommissioning the platforms will continue to be managed in compliance with 'The Offshore Installations (Safety Case) Regulations 2005 ("OSCR")/(SI 2005/3117). At each stage there will be a "current safety case" accepted by the regulator, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

As work progresses, any material changes to the current safety case will be submitted for HSE approval in advance of implementation. In addition, there is ongoing, two-way consultation with the statutory offshore safety representatives on the platform (often referred to as the "SI971 reps") regarding safety matters.

Are the environmental NGO’s updated on project options and progress?

Environmental NGOs are one of a wide range of identified stakeholders and, along with all the other stakeholders, they are invited to our dialogue events. We welcome the opportunity to continue to have discussions and to listen to all stakeholder views and input.

How is this decommissioning activity regulated?

Decommissioning activity is regulated by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change.Read further information.