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Marathon Oil is continuing the planning for the decommissioning of the Brae Area facilities in the UK sector of the central North Sea.
Decommissioning is a natural step in the life cycle of an oil and gas field. Marathon Oil began initial planning and evaluation of decommissioning the Brae Area facilities in 2009. Through hard work and innovative thinking, Marathon Oil has extended the life of the field significantly beyond initial projections. However, the inevitable decline in reservoir performance requires the field to be decommissioned. Decommissioning is a complex and time consuming process, and industry experience shows that early planning can support extended production even further and ultimately reduce overall costs.
The Brae Area lies approximately 170 miles (274 km) north-east of Aberdeen in a water depth of approximately 110m. The Area consists of three fixed jacket platforms, three Marathon Oil operated subsea tie-backs and numerous pipelines and subsea components. Third parties also use the Brae Area facilities.
Brae Alpha commenced production in 1983, Brae Bravo in 1988 and East Brae in 1993. The Central and West Brae/Sedgwick subsea tie-backs to Brae Alpha commenced production in 1989 and 1997 respectively. The Braemar subsea tie-back to East Brae commenced in 2003.
Liquids from the Brae Area are exported via the Forties pipeline to Cruden Bay, and then on to Kinneil near Grangemouth. Gas is transported via the Scottish Area Gas Evacuation (SAGE) pipeline to St. Fergus.
Before decommissioning work can proceed, the Decommissioning Programmes must be approved by the regulatory bodies, following engagement with all stakeholders.
In the UK sector of the North Sea, there is a clearly defined regulatory regime controlling the decommissioning of offshore oil and gas installations. Under the Petroleum Act 1998, as amended by the Energy Act 2008, it is a requirement to decommission offshore facilities at the end of their producing life.
Before decommissioning work can proceed, the operator must submit a Decommissioning Programme for approval by the regulatory bodies. This follows extensive engagement with stakeholders and the conclusion of numerous supporting studies. Decommissioning Programmes are considered on a case-by-case basis by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who are responsible for ensuring compliance with the Petroleum Act.
The UK’s international obligations on decommissioning are governed principally by the 1992 Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention). BEIS is the competent authority on decommissioning in the UK for OSPAR purposes.
The scope of the Decommissioning Programme must also satisfy requirements of other regulatory authorities, for example the Health and Safety Executive, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Scotland) / Environment Agency (England) and Oil and Gas Authority.
Marathon Oil has participated in open and transparent engagement with stakeholders as part of the process to identify the most appropriate options for the decommissioning of the Brae Area infrastructure.
Stakeholder engagement is an integral part of decommissioning and Marathon Oil is committed to continuing clear and open communication throughout the process. Marathon Oil will fully comply with regulation, whilst balancing the inputs from stakeholders.
The Decommissioning Programmes and associated documents are being developed in accordance with relevant legislation and will be based on assessments of the safety, technical, environmental, socio-economic and financial aspects of decommissioning. These assessments, together with an environmental appraisal of the proposed scope, will be published along with the Decommissioning Programmes. All documents will be available to review during the formal consultation period.
Marathon Oil is committed to ensuring compliance with the Supply Chain Code of Practice through the values of fairness and trust. Once the decommissioning contracting phase commences, the Company will engage proactively with the supply chain to identify safe, environmentally sound and cost-effective solutions in line with the demands of the Brae Area Decommissioning Programmes.