The North Sea oil and gas industry is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to emitting dangerous greenhouse gases.
Shell and Exxon are packing up and moving out of the famous Brent oil and gas field in the North Sea. As a final hurrah, almost 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be emitted as four platforms are dismantled and parts are either left to erode in the ocean or moved onshore and recycled.
That’s equal to about five percent of the UK’s North Sea industry’s annual emissions — from the start to very end, the Brent oil field continues to contribute to climate change.
But emitting hundreds of thousands of tonnes of dangerous greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, nitrous dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere is not the only environmental danger that comes with plugging and abandoning the wells.
Shell and Exxon own four platforms in the Brent field, famous for its oil barrels that help set an international benchmark price.
Exxon has a roughly even stake in the platforms in the guise of a brand familiar to UK’s drivers, Esso. But it’s Shell that is leading the Brent decommissioning efforts.
The field was discovered in 1971 and started production in 1976. Since then it has produced two billion barrels of oil and six trillion cubic feet of gas, according to Shell. It is located about 136 kilometres east of the Shetland Islands, and about 480 kilometers north of Aberdeen.
In a 322-page document submitted to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) last week, Shell outlined how it intends to end the life of the field now that “all the economically recoverable reserves of oil and gas have been extracted”.