Offshore oil & gas operators must be more open-minded and share campaigns and key information to make the multi-billion late life and decommissioning programme a reality, an industry event was told.

More cooperation to share good practice, lessons learned and campaign management in projects was needed to bring costs down by 35 per cent, experts said.

Better contracting models also need to be developed for the industry to move forward, more than 100 delegates were told.

Decommissioning should only be the last resort – but to make the most of the last reserves of near-end-of-life wells and platforms, operators must look for synergies with other energies, like offshore wind, to share facilities for the greatest cost efficiencies.

New technologies and different working practices to make the most expensive part of decommissioning, well plug and abandonment, cheaper, were outlined at the Late Life and Decommissioning Special Interest Group event at Norwich City Football Club run by the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) and Decom North Sea.

Well deconstruction is estimated to be between 43 to 50 per cent of the total North Sea decommissioning costs of nearly £50bn.

More than 1200 wells need to be plugged and abandoned in the UK Continental Shelf.

The Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) is demanding costs are driven down by 35 per cent.

Later this month, it will release its first Decommissioning Delivery Programme, offering a detailed plan for the next six to nine months. It is also looking at a well P& A pilot in the SNS to start next year using new technologies.

In a line-up of industry speakers who had travelled from as far as Houston, US, the message was clear – the industry must change how it thinks and works or the programme promising decades of work for the supply chain would be delayed further.

SIG Chair Julian Manning said: "The industry is under continued and unprecedented pressure from the low Oil price.  $50 a barrel of oil needs to be our new reality and we need to adapt to be profitable in that price range. A reliable schedule for decommissioning projects remains a challenge and presents uncertainty for all of those involved."

Karen Seath, general manager of Decom North Sea, said its new late life planning portal, L2P2 would be a tool box of information to share case studies, lessons learned, best practice and good practice to help more effective and standardised decommissioning.

“We need shared goals,” she said. “We need better contracting models, which is one of our real focus areas.”

Eric Marston, the OGA’s area manager for the SNS, gave a glimmer of hope for the supply chain about investment in the SNS with increasing exploration and appraisal well activity next year.

“A number of products are being brought to market and are being developed and conceived by different operators and there is a lot of investment coming.”

Accessing significant untapped reserves and resources economically in the SNS was one of the key challenges, he said.

Working with other energy sectors to access marginal gas pools that would otherwise be uneconomic was a key opportunity to access SNS resources that are tight and difficult to access, as well as exploring shared means of bringing power to shore.

The industry was investigating technologies to unlock them, looking at clusters of small pools which could be more economic to develop at the same time.

“How can the East of England as an energy hub support and deliver the remaining potential of the SNS leveraging opportunities that exist between operators and the supply chain.

“There is the opportunity for synergies within different sectors in this geographical area – between offshore renewables and the oil and gas industry. There are synergies – and there are opportunities in capabilities and competencies in this room.

*The 2017 series of SIG events will be announced at the next session in December.

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