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Facing the Challenge

05th December 2017

Graeme Fergusson, managing director at Decom Energy, the parent company of Fairfield Energy Group

Oil and Gas Technology spoke to Graeme Fergusson, managing director at Decom Energy, the parent company of Fairfield Energy Group, about the challenges facing the decommissioning sector in the North Sea

What is the extent of decommissioning in the North Sea?

UK North Sea decommissioning expenditure is estimated at approximately £60 billion, according to the OGA’s latest estimate, with more than 100 platforms forecast for complete or partial removal in the next decade. 


What are the challenges when it comes to decommissioning?

Decommissioning is unchartered territory – there will be countless lessons and challenges to learn as the industry develops. As the first decommissioning operator in the North Sea, we are at the forefront of this new frontier, with our skilled team already navigating and overcoming the challenges we are seeing at Dunlin.


Are there any new technologies that need to be developed?

Decommissioning demands innovation and new technology to maximise service delivery.  One of the main challenges of the Dunlin platform wells is their age and the poor condition of the annular cement.  Innovative solutions, such as perforate and wash techniques, have been trialled but so far these methods have proven not to be suitable with the Dunlin platform well architectures, and traditional abandonment techniques, such as section milling, has been required to establish the required permanent isolations. This is one area where new technology may be the key to unlocking better outcomes.   


Is the UK supply chain well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity?

In the UK we have one of the most developed and skilled oil and gas sectors in the world. With the North Sea on our doorstep, we have a unique opportunity to become world leaders in decommissioning.  As a consequence, there will undoubtedly be opportunities for the UK supply chain to participate fully in this emerging area of the industry.   From our significant experience to this point, it is clear to us that decommissioning will require a different mind-set to the traditional E&P models, and hence the supply chain must be prepared to be innovative in order to best capitalise.


As the North Sea is the start of the global decommissioning process do you feel there is an opportunity for UK companies to become leaders in this process and develop export opportunities?

The UK has some of the world’s most skilled oil and gas experts. With the North Sea on our doorstep and a steady stream of major decommissioning projects on the horizon, there is without a doubt an opportunity for the UK to use its wealth of experience to deliver decommissioning solutions to other regions in the future.


What services do Fairfield offer in decommissioning?

We are the North Sea’s first decommissioning operator. Our service offering is unique as we look to provide an expert end-to-end solution, built from the experience shaped at the sharp end of operating then decommissioning a complex first generation North Sea asset cluster. Our teams combine the responsibilities of an experienced ultra-late-life asset operator with activities that are conventionally outsourced to the decommissioning supply chain. 


Have you carried any out or contracted to carry any out?

Fairfield Energy was one of the first operators to tackle the issue of decommissioning after production at the Greater Dunlin Area assets ended in June 2015.  Dunlin and the associated subsea fields Osprey and Merlin are one of the oldest and most complex set of North Sea assets and present many technical, commercial and execution challenges for our team to overcome.  We have the talent to apply Dunlin’s lessons to a brand-new business model. While our primary focus is to decommission Dunlin, we have created a new company called Decom Energy to become the first fully outsourced end-to-end, late-life and decommissioning service provider in the North Sea. Our pioneering team is at the coal face, creating solutions for this last stage of the oil and gas lifecycle.  

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