Optimising decommissioning of oil and gas pipelines with respect to the commercial fishing sector on the UK continental shelf.

Lead Research Organisation: Scottish Association For Marine Science
Department Name: Contracts Office

Abstract

The oil and gas (O&G) and commercial-fishing sectors are among the two largest stakeholders that use the UK continental shelf (UKCS), particularly the North Sea. Evidence suggests that fishermen currently target pipelines, a poorly understood activity which has multi-sector implications for decommissioning. The challenge, as identified by the partners, is: the regulator and their advisers need to understand commercial fishing practices around pipelines in order to predict the consequences of various pipeline decommissioning options to both the O&G and fishing sectors. Such an understanding will enable the identification of the most cost-effective, legislatively compliant, safe and environmentally sustainable pipeline decommissioning option. This approach will reduce costs to all stakeholders and, ultimately, the UK taxpayer.

To enable exploitation of UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) oil and gas (O&G), more than 45,000 km of pipelines have been installed since the 1960s [1]. Only 2% have been decommissioned and there has been little research on the consequences of decommissioning to other industries and the environment. Many of the pipelines are reaching the end of their useful lives and need decommissioning.

Unlike platforms, pipelines are not covered by the OSPAR 98/3 ban on the disposal of installations at sea [2]. Pipeline decommissioning is considered on a case-by-case basis, by comparative assessment of the options. Operators must show that any proposed strategy meets international obligations to ensure the safety of navigation and fishing, and protection of the marine environment [1].

In the UKCS, fishing is an ecologically and economically important activity[3]. Due to the overlap of the O&G and fishing industries there is inevitably physical interaction between the two, including damage to fishing gear from pipelines [4] and to pipelines from fishing gear [5]. Vessels are banned from fishing within the 500 m exclusion zone around platforms [6], but no such restrictions apply to pipelines. Anecdotal accounts of vessels targeting pipelines as fishing grounds have always existed, with vessels thought to potentially benefit by targeting fish attracted to pipelines [7,8]. In 2014, analyses jointly undertaken by SAMS and MSS quantified the extent of this interaction and found that over a third of North Sea (NS) demersal trips fish occurred within 200 m of a pipe. The choice of decommissioning strategy of the ~2500 oil and gas pipelines will therefore have implications for the fishing industry and the environment.

The proposed project brings together the regulator (Department of Environment and Climate Change), their advisers (Marine Scotland Science) and representatives of the fishing and O&G sectors (Scottish Fishermen's Federation and Oil and Gas UK respectively) to extend the 2014 analysis(see above) and translate it into predictions of the impact of a range of realistic decommissioning scenarios (e.g. 0 - 100 % pipeline removal, covering pipelines with rocks, pipeline-size dependent removal etc) on the fishing industry. The first stage will be to collate data on pipeline attributes (size, protective material, date of installation) and fishing behaviour around pipelines and identify 'hotspots' of pipeline/fishing interactions by quantifying and characterising the location where pipelines are frequently crossed as fishermen move between grounds. The impact of realistic decommissioning options will then be determined. The final stage of the project is to embed this new knowledge into the relevant stakeholder community (e.g. regulators, their advisers and industry). This will be achieved via knowledge-brokering events (e.g. multi-sector workshops), via industry-publications and, directly, via the project partners themselves.

Planned Impact

The main stakeholders are the regulators, their advisers, the commercial-fishing industry and oil and gas industry. These stakeholders are represented by the Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC), Marine Scotland Science (MSS), the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) and Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) respectively in this project. The benefits and rationale for the involvement of these partners are detailed in the attached 'Letters of support' and in the 'Case for Support' and are summarised here.

Benefit to DECC/MSS - the translation of SAMS/MSS analysis of fishing around pipelines into an understanding of where fishing effort is concentrated (seabed and pipeline type) and how decommissioning options will influence subsequent fishing behaviour. The knowledge-base generated will serve as an evidence base to DECC/MSS/SFF to guide UK policy and lead any future international negotiations in relation to decommissioning pipelines e.g. under the auspices of OSPAR.

Benefit to Commercial fishing sector - fishing is dangerous and the fishing sector needs to understand risk-sources in order to mitigate against them. The SFF is consulted, by the regulator and their advisers, in relation to fishing activity and decommissioning and, clearly, the SFF needs evidence on which to base their recommendations. This proposal will provide the evidence base to enable industry representatives to make informed representation in negotiation with the regulators.

Benefit to O&G sector - the knowledge generated in this proposal will greatly increase understanding of the fishing-pipeline interaction. This knowledge will enable the optimal decommissioning option to be identified i.e. one that is cost-effective, safe, environmentally responsible and one that carries low risk. This will reduce financial- and reputational-risks to the industry.

Overall benefits - This project will underpin the UK government's regulators/advisors with the necessary understanding in order to optimize decommissioning in relation to the main stakeholders (fishing and the O&G sectors). This project will protect the UK tax-payer against unnecessary costs, minimize conflict between stakeholders, reduce risk to fishermen's lives and enhance responsible environmental management.
 
Description We have quantified the extent of the overlap between commerical fishing activity and pipelines in the North Sea.
Exploitation Route The databases generated by the project are openly available on the Scottish Government's NMPi and MSi websites (www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/science/ data).
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description Our findings contribute to the evidence base required in order to optimise decision making in relation to the decommissioning of pipelines in the North Sea. Our findings are being used in the 'comparative assessment' process conducted by the operators in proposing a decommissioning plan for their pipelines. The project's databases are a common resource that is available across all sectors (e.g industry and the regulators and their advisors) and aids a common understanding of the risks and benefits of various decommissioning options. These outputs and outcomes are detailed in the publications stemming from this work: 1. Rouse S, Hayes P, Wilding T, , (2018). Commercial fisheries losses arising from interactions with offshore pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure and activities. ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsy116. 2. Rouse, S., Hayes P, Wilding TA. (2017). Novel Fishing Data Layers to Assist Pipeline Decommissioning. Aberdeen: Decom News. Decom North Sea. 3. Sally Rouse, Peter Hayes, Ian M. Davies, Thomas A. Wilding, (2018). Offshore pipeline decommissioning: Scale and context.. Marine pollution bulletin, 129 (1), pp. 241-244 4. Rouse S, Kafas A, Hayes P, Wilding T, (2017). Development of data layers to show the fishing intensity associated with individual pipeline sections as an aid for decommissioning decision-making. Underwater Technology, 34 (4), 171-178 5. Rouse S, Kafas A, Catarino R, Peter H, (2018). Commercial fisheries interactions with oil and gas pipelines in the North Sea: considerations for decommissioning. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 75 (1), 279 - 286. The data layers are now an integral component of the comparative assessment process.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Chair (Tom Wilding) and co-chair (Sally Rouse) of the MASTS Oil and Gas forum
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact The Marine Alliance for Science and Technology, Scotland (MASTS) Oil and Gas forum promotes dialogue between academic, advisory/regulatory and industry sectors within oil and gas, particularly in relation to decommissioning and the environment. Our role is to identify knowledge gaps across the sector, and resolve these through engagement with the academic sector. The PipeFish project outputs and experiences are disseminated through this group.
 
Description Evidence provided for consultation response to decommissioning programmes
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact From April 2016 - March 2017, Marine Scotland Science (MSS) provided advice to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial strategy on 4 decommissioning programmes and subsequent monitoring for North Sea installations which included pipelines. MSS is consulted on the potential impacts of decommissioning programmes on fish and commercial fisheries, and the advice provided by MSS is an integral part of the regulatory process coordinated by BEIS to ensure the efficient permitting of offshore oil and gas activities. The high resolution spatial information on fishing practices that has been provided to MSS through the 'PipeFish' project now forms the basis of the MSS assessment of potential impacts to commercial fishing. The availability of this data to regulators, industry and other stakeholders has enabled more efficient and transparent decision-making for pipeline decommissioning, and improved prediction of the likely impacts.
 
Description Evidence provided for consultation response to disused pipeline notifications
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact From April 2016 - March 2017, Marine Scotland Science (MSS) provided advice to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial strategy on 20 disused pipeline notifications. MSS is consulted on the potential impacts of pipeline decommissioning programmes on fish and commercial fisheries, and the advice provided by MSS is an integral part of the regulatory process coordinated by BEIS to ensure the efficient permitting of offshore oil and gas activities. The high resolution spatial information on fishing practices that has been provided to MSS through the 'PipeFish' project now forms the basis of the MSS assessment of potential impacts to commercial fishing. The availability of this data to regulators, industry and other stakeholders has enabled more efficient and transparent decision-making for pipeline decommissioning, and improved prediction of the likely impacts.
 
Description Incorporation in Marine Scotland Science's standing advice on disused pipeline notifications and environmental statements for new O&G infrastructure
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact Marine Scotland Science (MSS) have incorporated the following text into their standing advice to oil and gas operators in MSS's role as a consultee on disused pipeline notifications and environmental statements associated with the installation of new oil and gas infrastructure: "The following paper highlights a number of fisheries incidents with oil and gas infrastructure in this area for which claims were submitted to the Fishing Compensation Fund "Rouse, S., Hayes, P., and Wilding, T. A. Commercial fisheries losses arising from interactions with offshore pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure and activities. - ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsy116". It is advised that finer scale information regarding specific losses in the location of the development are available from the Environment Manager at Oil and Gas UK and it may be useful to take these into account." "Marine Scotland has recently added new spatial layers to the Marine Scotland MAPS National Marine Plan interactive (NMPi) showing the intensity of mobile fishing associated with oil and gas pipelines and cables in the UK for 2007 - 2015. Further information and downloadable shape files may be found here: https://data.marine.gov.scot/dataset/uk-fishing-intensity-associated-oil-and-gas-pipelines-2007-2015-0." Incorporation of data on fishing intensity and snagging incident into pipeline decommissioning decisions and plans for new infrastructure has decreased the risks that installing/decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure leads to financial impacts of safety-related issues for commercial fishers.
 
Description NERC Oil and Gas Innovation
Amount £132,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/P016537/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2017 
End 02/2018
 
Title GIS layers of fishing intensity associated with North Sea pipelines 
Description Fishing location data has been combined with spatial data on North Sea pipelines to produce GIS layers. The layers show the number of fishing tracks associated with each 1 km section of pipeline for 2007 - 2015 for vessels operating demersal, nephrops and dredging gear. Data will be made publicly accessible on the Scottish Government's National Marine Plan Interactive (https://marinescotland.atkinsgeospatial.com/nmpi/) from April 2017. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The layers have been provided to BP and Shell for use in the development of the decommissioning plans and to incorporate into their 'risks to pipelines' models 
 
Description DECC/BEIS 
Organisation Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The output is a map of the extent of fishing pressure along North Sea pipelines. This is assisting BEIS in their 'comparative assessment' of various pipeline decommissioning options.
Collaborator Contribution BEIS have inputed by providing guidance on the main issues, from a comparative assessment perspective, in relation to decommissioning pipelines.
Impact This project is ongoing.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Marine Scotland 
Organisation Marine Scotland Science (MSS)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Our research has provided MSS with the evidence-base, in relation to fishing-effort-pipeline interactions, on which to base their advice to the regulator (BEIS). The Offshore Energy Environmental Advice Group, Marine Scotland Science, provide advice to the regulator (BEIS) in relation to decommissioning oil- and gas-related structures.
Collaborator Contribution MSS have provided essential data, namely the fishing-vessel tracking data ('VMS') and have provided GIS expertise.
Impact GIS maps, and underpinning raw data, of the location of fishing effort and pipelines in the North Sea
Start Year 2016
 
Description Oil and Gas UK 
Organisation Oil & Gas UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The PipeFish projects has quantified the overlap between fishing effort and pipelines. This information is essential to oil and gas operators, represented by Oil and Gas UK, in considering the implications of various pipeline decommissioning options.
Collaborator Contribution Oil and Gas UK are our main dissemination partner and are making their membership and the indusrtry in general aware of the findings of PipeFish. From Louis O'Harra Murray (Oil and Gas UK) "We can include an agenda item at the next forum and I will ask if we can include a note in our e-newsletter with links to NMPi which goes out every other month to all our industry contacts"
Impact None at this stage
Start Year 2016
 
Description Scottish Fishermen's Federation 
Organisation Scottish Fishermen's Federation
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The SFF need to understand the interaction between their members' fishing vessels and pipelines in order to be best informed in relation to discussions concerning pipeline decommissioning. Our research is providing the evidence base, shared between all project-partners including SFF, to inform that negotiation.
Collaborator Contribution SFF have provided essential 'contextual' information, for example, in relation to fishing practices on different fishing-grounds and at different times of year. This has given the project partners a better understanding, and predictive capacity, in relation to evaluating pipleine decommissioning options
Impact Nil
Start Year 2016
 
Description 4th SUT/MASTS Decommissioning Workshop. Presentation "Pipeline Decommissioning: Generating an Evidence Base for Comparative Assessments" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact ~80 scientists, engineers, salvers, operators, regulators, trade bodies, insurers, financiers, and lawyers attended the MASTS/SUT workshop to share knowledge and lesson learnt from across the oil and gas, salvage and renewables sectors. Discussions were held on best practise for managing man-made structures on the seafloor over their life-cycle using an evidence based approach.

Sally Rouse presented an overview of the initial data layers that show the overlap of commercial fishing activities and oil and gas pipelines. Two oil and gas operators made requests for the data layers following the presentation. This has been provided to them and will be used for selecting/justifying pipeline decommissioning strategies. In return, the operators have provided spatial data on their pipelines, which will be incorporated into future models of snagging risks associated with pipelines (NERC Oil and Gas Innovation project NE/P016537/1)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to Oil and Gas Environmental Forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presentation given to representatives from oil and gas industry concerned with environment aspects of operations. The presentation was given at the beginning of the project and introduced the work that would be undertaken and the data layers that would be produced/

Discussions with Louise O'Hara Murray around current environmental challenges faced by the industry directly led to the development of the successfully funded project "Development of a strategic framework for the comparative assessment of pipeline decommissioning options: optimising environment and fishing interests" NE/P016537/1
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to Scottish Government Directorate for Energy and Climate Change 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A presentation on planned activities under the 'PipeFish' project was given to 4 member of the Scottish Government Directorate for Energy and Climate Change (SG-DECC). Requests were made for access to the data layers that would be produced. Discussions were held on data owned by the SG-DECC which could be used to improve data layers such as economic data on the costs of decommissioning.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016