Adam Vaughan Energy correspondent
Monday 6 February 2017 07.01 GMT
The Brent field rigs were built in the 1970s and produced around a tenth of the UK’s North Sea oil. But three of the four – Alpha, Bravo and Delta – have now shut down, and this summer the company will embark on a multibillion-pound eight- to 10-year project to remove the vast drilling and accommodation structures.
The plan being submitted to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been a decade in the making, as the group has consulted community groups, academics, fishermen and environmentalists in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the Brent Spar debacle.
When the company proposed sinking the Spar oil storage buoy in 1995, it prompted protests by Greenpeace, petrol boycotts in Germany and a falling share price. Shell was eventually forced to back down and find a more environmentally-friendly plan.
Duncan Manning, who spent 19 years with the Royal Marines and is now one of the team charged by Shell with overseeing the decommissioning of Brent, is confident the group won’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
“I think there have been a number of lessons from Brent Spar – lessons we have learned, and also the [regulatory] environment has changed,” said Manning, Shell’s business opportunity manager for Brent.
Once Shell is past the 60-day consultation beginning this week, it will switch to an engineering task Manning sums up as “large, complex and challenging”.