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Abandoned platforms in the North Sea forecasted activity in 2016

Lifecycle stage

Southern North Sea and Irish Sea

The outlook for the Southern North Sea and the Irish Sea regions, however, tells a different story. 2016 will see 50 wells abandoned, 28 of these being platforms, but the next 12 months will be one of the most productive in the region. As well as easily beating 2014’s (12 wells) and 2015’s (27 wells) productivity levels, the spike in 2016 is set to beat forecasted figures for the next three years too.


‘Making safe’ is the phrase coined by Oil & Gas UK to prepare platforms ready for decommissioning. Typically in the Central and North Sea, ‘making safe’, which includes the cleaning, disconnection and freeing equipment of hydrocarbons, is carried out two years prior to total decommissioning. Following these stages, the preparation of topsides is carried out 12 months before removal.

It is estimated that the Central and North Sea regions will remove over 40 topside modules in 2016 – a considerable amount of activity that will kick start the region’s £1 billion projects to take away almost 160,000 tonnes of topsides over the next seven years.


After a period of 10 major decommissioning projects on the UKCS over the past twenty years, 2016 looks like the year that activity begins to ramp up. The North Sea’s oldest producing field that has supplied four billion barrels of oil from four platforms, the Brent oilfield, is already underway – just one of 21 live decommissioning projects.

Combined with the UK Government approved projects from 2015, and the four additional projects that have been submitted this year already, clearly no oil price fluctuation or political instability is going to disrupt the North Sea’s plans too much.

Decom North Sea have reported that as much as £1.5 billion will be spent this year on decommissioning projects, almost £250 million more than 2015. This upward trend is set to continue until 2019 when costs will peak at over £2.5 billion in the North Sea.

Likewise, activity in the region is set to surpass 2016’s figures over the next five years with well P&As averaging 62 projects per year – two statistics that prove that activity in the North Sea, and the decommissioning industry, are well and truly alive. Whether the market conditions will allow for the decommissioning industry to achieve these statistics – only time will tell.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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