UK North Sea decommissioning heightens risk of leaks

Thu Apr 12, 2012 8:15am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Oleg Vukmanovic

LONDON (Reuters) - The UK North Sea's dwindling oil and gas reserves will make abandoning wells increasingly common, exposing operators to similar challenges facing French major Total (TOTF.PA: Quote) when decommissioning work triggered a blowout, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.

"The problem that Total encountered as it decommissioned an old well at the field is likely to portend difficulties at other mature fields in the medium term," the IEA said in its latest oil market report.

The blowout that led Total to hastily evacuate all 238 workers off its Elgin platform - 150 miles off the coast of Aberdeen - over two weeks ago is still spewing gas, while costing the company $2.5 million per day so far.

The next decade will see several fields and installations in the UK Continental Shelf cease production and commence decommissioning, the West's energy watchdog said.

A recent report by Deloitte and Douglas-Westwood says over the next 30 years, almost 500 platforms, 8,000 wells, 4 million metric tonnes (4.4 million tons) of steel and several hundred subsea wells, manifolds and pipelines will need to be decommissioned in the North Sea area.

"Other companies are sure to look towards Total's experience as an indicator of problems that might occur when routine maintenance becomes problematic for an entire field complex," it said.

Output from fields and platforms surrounding Elgin also ceased following the leak due to safety precautions, including Shell's (RDSa.L: Quote) Shearwater platform three miles away.