Greenpeace sees Boost for Onshore Decommissioning Industry
Oslo, 22 October 1999 - Greenpeace today welcomed Phillips Norway‘s proposal to decommission onshore all fourteen steel oil platforms from the North Sea „Ekofisk I“ field, as a significant step that will boost the development of the onshore decommissioning industry. Today Phillips Norway (1) released their proposal for the disposal of the „Ekofisk I“ offshore field, by far the largest upcoming decommissioning project in the North Sea. Over the next few years, fourteen steel platforms and one concrete offshore installation will be decomissioned and have to be dismantled. This follows a decision last year at the OSPAR ministerial conference to ban the dumping of all steel platforms in the North Sea and Northeast Atlantic and instead bring them ashore for scrapping or recycling (2). Jan Rispens of Greenpeace said that Phillips had no other option for steel platforms because ocean dumping was ruled out last year: „The Brent Spar controversy, where Shell was forced to abandon its dumping plans, has now forced the oil industry to be responsible for its own redundant installations. This will benefit the environment, the onshore decommissioning industry and will also provide jobs“. The proposal that the 1.2 million tonnes concrete tank, that was used to store most of the oil that was produced in the Ekofisk field, be sealed and left in place, will have to be submitted by Phillips to the OSPAR Commission for consideration. Last year the OSPAR Commission agreed an exception for heavy concrete installations from the general ban on the disposal of oil installations at sea. But only if it is shown that onshore removal is not technically feasible or the risk to workers is too high. The proposal will be accepted only if Phillips can convince the OSPAR member countries, that this is the case. Greenpeace will monitor this process carefully to ensure that all rules and procedures are being followed (3). Greenpeace criticised the proposal of Phillips not to remove the drilling muds below the platforms from the seabed. "Cleaning up is not finished after the steel structures have been removed" says Jan Rispens, "The offshore oil and gas industry must not be allowed to hide their toxic legacy on the seabed". Thousands of tonnes of drilling muds are poisoning large parts of the North Sea. Greenpeace insists that they be removed. According to the environmental organisation, "this will be the next major issue where the oil companies will have to face their industrial responsibility to clean up their acts".
(1) Phillips Norway is the company operating most installations in the Ekofisk oil field in the norwegian sector of the North Sea. (2) OSPAR Decision 98/3 on the Disposal of Disused Offshore Installations was adopted by the Ministerial Conference of the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the north East Atlantic, in July 1998 in Sintra, Portugal. It is legally binding in all the countries bordering the North East Atlantic. Accordingly, all steel platforms in the North Sea and Northeast Atlantic have to be brought ashore for scrapping or recycling. For heavy concrete installations only, the Decision contemplates the possibility of exceptions from this general rule: if the operators of an oil field can demonstrate that onshore removal is not technically feasible or that the risk to personnel is too high, the OSPAR Commission may authorise its abandonment at sea under certain strict conditions. The text of the decision can be found at: http://www.ospar.org (3) Greenpeace International is an accredited observer in the meetings of the OSPAR Commission.
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