The opportunity and resource challenge in Decommissioning

The opportunity and resource challenge in Decommissioning

Chris Lloyd, Head of Environmental and Decommissioning at ASCO

As logistics and materials management experts, ASCO has – for almost 15 years – played a critical role in the UKCS decommissioning marketplace.

Providing a fully integrated logistics and materials management service across every stage of the decommissioning cycle, including our environmental services offering, we’ve built up a wealth of experience and knowledge – and developed trusted, collaborative relationships with approved supply chain partners. We have visibility of the scale of projects coming down the pipeline for the next five to ten years, which gives us the ability to prepare for the well-documented increase in decom activity over the coming decade at least.

Combining that market insight, our 15 years of decom expertise and a company-wide strategy to reach our net zero targets before 2040, it’s clear that we are fundamentally committed to the energy transition. We’re playing our part in the UK’s decarbonisation journey by providing a sustainable decommissioning and environmental service, working across the supply chain while also decarbonising our own operations.

The fact that we’re committed to reducing our carbon emissions plays a huge role in ensuring that our services are genuinely sustainable and future-proof. Throughout our business, measures have been put in place that includes ensuring all onshore transportation is facilitated by ASCO’s fleet of heavy goods vehicles running on renewable Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) fuel. ASCO’s Zero Waste to Landfill initiative also allows us to work alongside our clients to reduce the number of items sent to landfills from all aspects of offshore operations.

We partner with various ports to ensure the most sustainable location is selected; this is often based on geography so that our customers can choose the facility as close to the point of waste generation as possible. We also work with the local supply chain to reduce movements after the waste is taken ashore. Additionally, we designed our NORM Solutions premises with sustainability in mind, making conscious decisions such as using water for our ultra-high-pressure jetting to decontaminate items without using abrasive materials to minimise waste generation.

It’s against this context of experience that we discuss the international decommissioning opportunities for those who have honed their expertise in the North Sea. Key to optimising those opportunities is, for us, the collaborative mindset, mentioned at the start of this article. This allows us to support clients from any quayside, ensuring they benefit from our expertise at the facility best suited to their project, and we work closely with port operators to establish relationships with local suppliers and the workforce. Our existing global footprint is, in this respect, almost custom-made to support the forecast growth of decommissioning activity – and it’s a market that has considerable longevity. In addition to future opportunities in the more mature Australian and Norwegian markets, there is also scope for the export of UK decommissioning expertise to the Arabian Gulf, West Africa and the Far East.

There is no doubt that each region will need to be prepared for the financial and regulatory challenges associated with decommissioning activity, and therefore access to the safest, most efficient methods will logically mean looking towards the experience gained in the UK decom market.

For example, one of the main concerns of any decommissioning operation, which knows no regional boundary, is the risk associated with Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) on subsea and topside structures and equipment ready for decommissioning. Through experience, ASCO alleviates these risks through NORM Solutions, our integrated team of specialists. NORM services are frequently sourced separately once the requirement has been identified; however, ASCO provides operators with the reassurance of knowing that we can handle any NORM-related challenges their project may present, without interruption to the task at hand.

Our commitment to service excellence has rewarded us with several significant long-term decommissioning contracts, and to support the increased activity levels, we continue to increase the size of our NORM Solutions team, who are trained in-house (let’s not forget that training is another potential exportable decom service), and who we anticipate will form a significant role in the export of our decommissioning services.

Based on our own experiences and those of many of our fellow Decom North Sea members, I think it’s pretty clear that there are significant opportunities for those involved in the UK decommissioning market to export our skills and services. The next question is to address the challenge of ensuring there is sufficient personnel to manage the increased decom workload – both at home and overseas – amid growing concern that our current workforce numbers simply aren’t sufficient. When you add in the competing demands for resources from the renewables and exiting E&P sectors, it is clear we should be concerned about the effect on the timing and pace of Decommissioning projects. You’ll be able to hear more about that resource conundrum during Decom Week, when I’ll be discussing the subject during the People and skills: recruitment and retention & development session on Wednesday afternoon.


With thanks to ASCO, a key partner of Decom Week 2023.