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Decommissioning and Abandonment

Industry perceives decommissioning projects as more risky and uncertain than capital projects. Several recent decommissioning projects delivered in an immature marketplace seem to support this view. What can be done to change this perception and enable delivery of safe and cost-effective decommissioning projects?

I have always been a fan of this quote from Irving Fisher: “Risk varies inversely with knowledge.” I believe it can provide insight into a strategy that can improve the delivery of decommissioning projects. What can be done around decommissioning projects to gather knowledge of the asset to facilitate better planning and delivery and reduce the risk and uncertainty associated with decommissioning? The selected papers and additional reading listed here illustrate the use of knowledge to plan decommissioning more effectively and to understand the risks associated with selected end states. The following are a few thoughts on the use of knowledge to reduce risk and uncertainty in decommissioning:

  • Decommissioning differs from a capital project in that we know (or think we know) what the asset looks like. The critical uncertainty is the condition of that asset at end of life. What diagnostic information do we gather routinely over the life cycle that can provide clarity on the condition of that asset for decommissioning? Perhaps we need a key performance indicator analogous to front-end loading in capital projects that addresses the quality of our decommissioning and condition knowledge of that asset.
  • Identify the responsible party in an organization for gathering, distilling, and using asset knowledge for decommissioning. Asset information comes from various sources over the life cycle of the asset but needs a decommissioning set of eyes to identify and manage these risks. An analogy could be how we typically view and manage regulatory or asset-integrity information. This is an accountability that spans the life cycle of the asset through to decommissioning.
  • When planning the actual decommissioning work, identify and perform diagnostic work in cooperation with the supply chain as part of your market-engagement strategy. It is better to know the condition of what needs plugging and decommissioning than to find out halfway in. The unknowns become planned work activities instead of risks. This optimally is a cooperative effort between the owner and contractor to identify and manage uncertainties of the project, not just a set of contractual terms and conditions.
  • Share detailed experience, case studies, and lessons learned through professional forums such as SPE.

This Month's Technical Papers

Modeling Options for Drill-Cuttings Management

Environmental Risk Arising From Well-Construction Failure

Digital-Slickline Capability on Plug-and-Abandonment Conveyance Phases

Recommended Additional Reading

IPTC 16945 Environmental Liabilities in the Oil and Gas Industry and Life-Cycle Management by Lian Zhao, Integrated Environments, et al.

OTC 24461 Advances in Autonomous Deepwater Inspection by D. McLeod, Lockheed Martin, et al.

SPE 161556 Axis of Success: A Unique Professional Plug-and-Abandonment Project in a Populated Town Area by Hazem Abdelsalam, ADCO, et al. 

Win Thornton, SPE, is vice president of decommissioning, global projects organization, at BP. He has more than 35 years of experience in offshore construction and decommissioning projects working as an operator for BP, Chevron, and Oxy; a contractor from Brown & Root and WorleyParsons; and a consultant for Winmar and TST. Thornton holds a BS degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and an MS degree from the University of Houston. His recent work includes offshore decommissioning and reuse projects in the Gulf of Mexico, west Africa, California, Alaska, southeast Asia, and South America. Thornton has championed the environmentally sound and cost-effective disposal of obsolete platforms through placement in state-sanctioned “Rigs to Reefs” programs. He is a member of the JPT Editorial Committee.

Decommissioning and Abandonment

Win Thornton, SPE, Vice President of Decommissioning, BP

01 January 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 1

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