Stakeholder engagement has played a significant role in the development of the Brent Decommissioning Programme.
Since 2007, the Brent Project has engaged with a wide range of organisations, including: academics, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s), fishermen’s organisations, industry and business associations, members of the UK and Scottish parliaments, regulatory bodies, regional economic development agencies, local authorities and community groups, professional engineering institutes, other oil and gas operators, the scientific community, the media, and the general public.
The focus of this engagement has been to share information about the process, initial thinking on a way forward, and the extent of the technical challenges and decisions associated with decommissioning. In addition, stakeholders have been able to share their views and perspectives, and directly influence the areas of study and activity that the Project Team has pursued.
Who is a stakeholder?
The Brent Project stakeholders are characterised as ‘any individual or group that has a specific or defined interest in, or is potentially impacted by, the decommissioning of the Brent Field.
Listening to views
Consulting with, and listening to, stakeholders has been an important part of the Brent decommissioning process. This inclusive and transparent engagement has provided a platform for frank and open discussion of stakeholders’ views and concerns, allowing us to take those concerns into account when analysing the various decommissioning options to arrive at our recommendations.
Examples of how the Project has responded to specific stakeholder inputs:
- A Cell Management Stakeholder Task Group (CMSTG) was convened, which has contributed to the recommendations on cell content management.
- CMSTG members requested that long-term fate modelling be used to better understand the long term impact of the cell contents Leave in Place option in case of any release into the marine environment. The Project’s Independent Review Group of leading scientists reviewed and commented on the modelling and the outcome.
- To provide improved assurance regarding the cell contents, CMSTG members encouraged the Project team to collect samples of cell sediment. Though the samples proved extremely challenging to obtain, the team obtained samples, and shared the results with the CMSTG.
- The cell sediment analysis was broadened following stakeholder feedback to include specific compounds.
- The Public Consultation period has been extended from the statutory 30 days to 60 days, to allow stakeholders additional time to review and provide feedback on the complex suite of documents in the Decommissioning Programme (DP).
Stakeholder engagement process
To ensure that a broad base of opinion was captured during the engagement process the project has engaged with over 180 organisations both in the UK and mainland Europe. The stakeholder engagement process is based on the clear principle of ‘dialogue, decide, deliver’ - that is engaging extensively with stakeholders on the emerging range of options, and listening to their views and concerns prior to arriving at the decommissioning recommendations, sharing those recommendations, and submitting the DP.
We asked each stakeholder organisation how often, and in what ways, they would like to take part in the programme. We tailored our approach to their needs and preferences. Some wanted a relationship of continual dialogue and one-to-one meetings, others were happy to be kept informed through occasional meetings, emails and e-news updates. This dialogue and feedback has subsequently helped inform our proposals during the process of developing the DP, and encouraged us to think differently about how things could or should be done.
The aim of the stakeholder engagement was to promote better mutual understanding, allow for all points of view to be heard and considered, and make for better -informed decisions.
We have achieved this through:
- Open, transparent communication
- Building strong long-term relationships with stakeholders who have a high level of interest in decommissioning, and our project
- Forming the Cell Management Stakeholder Task Group (CMSTG)
- Establishing an Independent Review Group (IRG) of leading scientific academics to review the engineering and scientific studies undertaken to enable the project to prepare for decommissioning of the Brent Field.
Over the past 10 years we have commissioned more than 300 scientific and technical studies to ensure that all feasible decommissioning options for each part of the Brent Field have been investigated thoroughly and scientifically.
In 2006 we asked Professor John Shepherd to form the IRG of scientific experts to review each of these studies to validate the science and engineering behind our work and conclusions. Over the years since the IRG has made more than 3,000 comments on these studies, each of which has had a formal response from Shell.
In 2012, Shell formed the CMSTG. The CMSTG’s role was to understand and provide input on how to manage, safely and effectively, the contents of the large concrete oil storage cells. The CMSTG comprised stakeholders who represented a cross-section of diverse views, and had expressed a willingness and desire to undertake an in-depth assessment of the shortlisted options for the management of the cell content. Fifteen organisations and individuals representing a range of different perspectives participated in the CMSTG.
Information was shared openly to ensure that stakeholders understood the challenges and dilemmas facing the Project. Our goal is to ensure a broad understanding of our recommendations, how we have arrived at them, and explain why these may differ from options preferred by some stakeholders.
Since 2007 Shell has:
- Identified, engaged, and received input from over 180 organisations, involving more than 400 individuals, in the UK and mainland Europe
- Commissioned over 300 studies, which have been reviewed by the IRG (involving over 3,000 responses)
- Delivered 14 Stakeholder group dialogue events (in London and Aberdeen)
- Held 2 public talks in July 2016, in London and Aberdeen (in partnership with the IMechE)
- Conducted well over 300 one-to-one engagements/presentations;
- Issued 16 editions of Brent e-News (as of September 2016)
- Presented Brent Decommissioning Project updates and challenges at over 50 Conferences and Industry events in the UK, Europe and globally
- Regularly shared lessons learned with a range of other operators, including members of the International Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP), and the Oil & Gas UK Decommissioning Forum.
This has been a sustained process, and the stakeholders’ openness in their comments, observations and concerns, and long-term commitment, has been welcomed and very much appreciated. Their comments, questions and suggestions have improved our understanding of their concerns, encouraged us to seek additional information, and enhanced our engagement strategy.
Where we have faced decisions around more challenging decisions and issues we have openly addressed these with the stakeholders, engaging widely and deeply as appropriate, to converge on the best outcome. We were clear that we would not submit our recommendations until we were confident that that they were safe, technically achievable, environmentally and socially sound, and financially responsible.
Submission of the Decommissioning Programme
When the regulatory authorities receive a draft Decommissioning Programme for consideration there is a statutory 30 day public consultation period, to allow all interested parties to comment. In the case of the Brent Decommissioning Programme we have agreed with the regulatory authorities to extend this consultation period to 60 days.
A full Stakeholder Engagement Report has been submitted with the Brent Decommissioning Programme, and is available during the Public Consultation period.
Stakeholder sessions – IMechE talk, London (July 2016)
Watch this video of our talk at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) in London. Project Director Alistair Hope and Business Opportunity Manager Duncan Manning share recommendations for how the Brent Decommissioning team plan to carry out this significant engineering operation.
Stakeholder contribution – Cell Management Stakeholder Task Group (CMSTG)
Consultation has contributed to solving some specific decommissioning challenges. For example, a stakeholder focus group was formed to contribute to the discussions on how best to decommission the large concrete subsea cells that lie beneath three of the four Brent platforms. Some of these cells have been used for oil storage and separation and contain some legacy oily residue and sediment together with sea water. The focus group developed a model that weighs up the options for decommissioning the cells safely and effectively. This model has been helpful in allowing us to converge on our own recommendation.
Specific stakeholder input contributed to our decision to retrieve samples of oil water and sediment from the cell contents in 2014 and has aided us in confirming options to deal with the residual contents. Stakeholders have also provided comments on the options surrounding for possible removal of the platforms’ concrete legs as well as the long-term monitoring of any structures that may be left in place.
The group most recently met in November 2015 – read more about the session.
Independent Review Group
An Independent Review Group (IRG) of eminent scientists, chaired by Professor John Shepherd from Southampton University, has been engaged since 2007 to review the science and conclusions of the 300+ technical studies commissioned.