The offshore oil and gas industry has dedicated significant efforts to decommissioning platforms in the US Gulf of Mexico in the last five years.
According to Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director Scott Angelle, over the last five years, only 46 platforms were installed while 862 were removed. That figure is well up from a decade ago when the industry removed 1.3 platforms for every platform installed.
Average water depth for new platforms has gone from 225 feet a decade ago to 1,083 feet, according to Angelle.
“We are seeing a clear tendency to install fewer, larger platforms in deeper water,” he says. “I see two different Gulfs of Mexico.”
One is the deepwater, which accounts for about 80% of the Gulf’s production, and the other is the mature shallow water area. Operators have focused recently on decommissioning shallow-water platforms that are no longer producing. Part of the driver is liability as a hurricane can “down” a platform. During Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, a host of platforms no longer under production were downed, increasing the decommissioning and removal costs of those platforms by a factor of ten in some cases.
“There is a push to remove infrastructure” that is no longer producing and has no future use, Angelle says. At the same time, he says, it is vital that removal of platforms in the shallow GoM doesn’t leave behind stranded assets.
BSEE has approved plans to remove 33 platforms in the Gulf of Mexico this year.
In December 2018, BSEE issued Notice To Lessees (NTL) No. 2018-G03 - Idle Iron Decommissioning Guidance for Wells and Platforms. NTL 2018-G03 supersedes an existing notice, NTL No. 2010-G05, and provides clarification and guidance to help ensure idle infrastructure on active leases is decommissioned timely and in accordance with existing regulations.
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