Professor Naomi Brookes & Dr Anne Velenturf

Engineering

The social, economic, technical and environmental values of North Sea oil & gas decommissioning for local communities and companies

 

UK government and industry have the ambition to realise a circular economy that makes better use of resources. This will increase resource efficiency, limit carbon emissions, promote the use of renewable materials and energy, and boost low-carbon growth through innovative business opportunities that create jobs in disadvantaged regions. Implementing circular economy proves challenging, not least because collective action is required from government, industry and the general public.

Circular economy is intertwined with the challenge of adopting more low-carbon energy systems. While the UK ups its renewables targets, North Sea oil & gas (NOG) will be decommissioned. NOG decommissioning presents challenges and opportunities for the sector which has to decommission 600 installations within 30-40 years in the UK and recover 840,000 tonnes of materials in the next decade at an estimated cost of £25Bn. In 2017 NOG became a net-drain on the public purse. With UK taxpayers covering 50%-70% of the bill, there is an urgent need to discuss the most economic, social and environmentally beneficial decommissioning solutions for the general public.

The ‘CVORR’ approach was developed at the University of Leeds to optimise economic, social and environmental values from materials and products within our economy. A collaboration between Civil Engineering, Earth and Environment, Petroleum Leeds, SRI, Leeds University Business School and Zero Waste Scotland will apply CVORR for the first time to the context of decommissioning energy infrastructure. This project will engage stakeholders in NOG to:

  • Identify circular economy supply chains for decommissioned NOG infrastructure
  • Analyse the economic, social and environmental benefits of new supply chains
  • Articulate recommendations for government and industry to embed circular economy into decommissioning

This project will help communities of businesses and people in Scottish regions, which are heavily affected by economic decline, to reinvent themselves with new products and services while maintaining a part of their identity, as the NOG sector moves from extraction to decommissioning.