Development of a strategic framework for the comparative assessment of pipeline decommissioning options: optimising environment and fishing interests

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

Abstract

Background
As part of the exploitation of UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) oil and gas (O&G), more than 27,000 km of pipelines have been installed since the 1960s. To date, only 2% have been decommissioned and there has been little research on the consequences of decommissioning to other industries and the environment [1]. Over the next 6-8 years, approximately 5,600 km of pipelines will require decommissioning on the UKCS [2]. Pipeline decommissioning is considered on a case-by-case basis, by the comparative assessment of the available decommissioning options [3]. As part of the comparative assessment, operators must demonstrate to the regulator (the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy - BEIS) that any proposed strategy meets international obligations to ensure the safety of fishing and protection of the marine environment. In order to do so, a comprehensive evidence-base and a strategic framework for assessing pipeline decommissioning with respect to fishing and environmental interests is required.

The commercial fishing industry is one of largest users of the UK continental shelf (UKCS), and it is known that there is substantial spatial overlap between pipeline infrastructure and fishing [4]. The presence of decommissioned pipelines on the seabed, without rock dump, presents a potential snagging risk to fishers, according to the type of pipeline, seabed type, fishing intensity and gear-type. The UKCS also contains a number of internationally important conservation features (habitats and species), such as those listed in the EU Habitats Directive (e.g. cold-water corals) and those that are included within designated marine protected areas. These conservation features/species (CF/S) are potentially sensitive to pipeline decommissioning as a result of physical impacts, sediment disturbances and the removal of hard substratum which provides additional habitat for the CF/S and/or protection from trawling damage.

Objective
This project will result in the quantification of the risks/benefits of all pipeline decommissioning options to both fishing and the environment and the integration of these risks to find the optimal decommissioning solution for each pipe (from the fisher/environmental perspective). This will be achieved by:
1. Combining and collating knowledge of species-pipeline associations gained from analysis of video footage of pipelines (collected routinely by the industry for integrity monitoring), spatial data on fishing patterns and snagging incidents, and data on the distribution and sensitivities of CF/S.
2. Developing spatial 'risk-layers' that can be flexibly combined to evaluate and minimise the relative risks to conservation interests and fishers, across all UKCS pipelines, from all feasible decommissioning options.
3. Embedding the resulting assessment into decommissioning protocols.

Impacts and beneficiaries
The main beneficiaries of the project will be the UK Government, their advisors [5], fishers and the oil and gas industry who will benefit from an enhanced evidence-base that is shared across all sectors. The outputs of the project will facilitate cost-effective, rapid, consistent and transparent decision-making in relation to pipeline decommissioning.

REFERENCES
[1] Oil and Gas UK (2013), Decommissioning of pipelines in the North Sea region
[2] Oil and Gas UK (2014), Decommissioning Insight 2014
[3] Department for Energy and Climate Change (2011), Decommissioning of Offshore Oil and Gas Installations and Pipelines under the Petroleum Act
[4] PipeFish - Optimising the decommissioning of oil and gas pipelines with respect to commercial fishing at the scale of the UK continental shelf. NE/N019369/1
[5] Marine Scotland and statutory nature conservation bodies such as Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England

Planned Impact

The main beneficiaries of the project will be the UK Government, their advisors, fishers and the oil and gas industry. These stakeholders will benefit from an enhanced, publicly available evidence-base that is shared across all sectors. The outputs of the project will facilitate cost-effective, rapid, consistent and transparent decision-making in relation to pipeline decommissioning.

Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
BEIS are responsible for insuring that any decommissioning programme returns the seabed to a state where it is safe to be fished. Pipeline removal is the preferred option to ensure fsiher-saftey but this is not always technically possible (e.g. where pipeline are very large). BEIS requires a better understanding of the interactions between pipelines, decommissioning options, the fishing industry and the environment which this study will provide. BEIS is also charged with assessing post-decommissioning monitoring protocols; the CA-PipeFish project will highlight which pipeline/pipeline-section is deserving of the greatest post-decommissioning monitoring, for example where the fishing pressure is the greatest.

Marine Scotland Science (MSS)
MSS provides advice to BEIS through the assessment of offshore oil and gas environmental statements. In order to provide the best advice possible, MSS need to better understand the interactions between fishing, pipelines and conservation features. This project will collate data from several sources into a single-access point which will facilitate a rapid assessment of the likely consequences to fishers and conservation features of numerous decommissioning options. This will enable MSS to provide timely, accurate and auditable advice to BEIS from their shared geodatabase.

Oil & Gas UK (O&G UK) and Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF)
The O&G UK trade association promotes open dialogue between their membership and other UK continental shelf stakeholders such as fishers. O&G UK also promote safety and environmental awareness and aims to develop industry-wide initiatives to engage with regulatory bodies. The SFF was formed to preserve and promote the collective interests of Scotland's fishermen's associations (representing >80% of the UK's demersal fleet). The oil and gas and fishing industries operate side-by-side in on the UK continental shelf. O&G UK and SFF work closely together to minimise negative interactions between their respective memberships, mainly the snagging of underwater oil and gas infrastructure by fishing gear. In order to further this cause, promote safety and reduce costly interactions both O&G UK and SFF both need to better understand the extent (intensity) and nature (e.g. gear-type, proximity) of fishing/pipeline interactions. This project will, for the first time, develop and bring together datasets that will allow these interactions to be properly quantified. O&G UK and SFF, and through them their membership, will benefit from the common-access-evidence base that will be generated by this project to promote safe decommissioning resulting in reduced expenditure and enhanced safety.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SHN) and Natural England (NE)
SNH and NE, statutory nature conservation bodies, provide advice, based on the best scientific evidence, to central government (e.g BEIS) on how best to safeguard natural wealth for the benefit of current and future generations. In order to provide this advice, conservation agencies require an evidence-base in order to make recommendations for the optimal management option. CA-PipeFish will provide that evidence-base, allow the testing of alternative decommissioning-scenarios and identify where important knowledge-gaps exist.

Further details are provided in the Case for Support.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have quantified the presence, around and on pipelines, of species and habitats of conservation interest.
Exploitation Route We have published papers:
1.Lacey N, Hayes P, , (2019). Epifauna associated with subsea pipelines in the North Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science,
2.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,
3. Rouse, S., Hayes P, Wilding TA. (2017). Novel Fishing Data Layers to Assist Pipeline Decommissioning. Aberdeen: Decom News. Decom North Sea.
4. 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
These papers provide evidence to the O&G industry and regulatory sector regards the potential environmental consequences of various decommissioning options, particularly in the context of existing fishing pressure in the North Sea.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Environment

 
Description The presence of decommissioned pipelines on the seabed can present a potential snagging risk to fishers, according to the type of pipeline, seabed type, fishing intensity and gear-type but, equally, can provide a refuge/habitat to species of conservation value. Our data and analyses have been incorporated into Marine Scotland Science's standing advice on disused pipeline notifications and enviromental statements for new O&G infrastructure. We also gave evidence to the UK Government's review of in situ pipeline decommssioning impacts on behalf of the OSPAR offshore industry committee.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
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 Provided evidence to the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (within UK Government's - Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) review of in situ pipeline decommissioning impacts to the environment and commercial fishing in the North Sea on behalf of OSPAR's offshore industry committee
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description NERC Innovative Monitoring
Amount £94,536 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R014698/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 07/2018
 
Description BP 
Organisation BP (British Petroleum)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The CA pipefish project has quantified the risk of incidents between pipelines and fishing vessels, and the faunal associations with pipelines. This information is essential to oil and gas operators in compiling comparative assessments for pipeline decommissioning options
Collaborator Contribution BP have provided access to ROV video footage of pipelines for quantification of faunal associations
Impact (1) Evidence to government (BEIS) review (2) Presentation to Scottish Government - details in relevant section of form
Start Year 2017
 
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 Natural England 
Organisation Natural England
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Our research is providing SNH with the evidence-base, in relation to fishing-environment-pipeline interactions, on which to base their advice to the regulator (BEIS).
Collaborator Contribution Natural England have provided expertise on species and habitats of conservation interest to guide analysis of ROV footage
Impact (1) Evidence to government (BEIS) review (2) Presentation to Scottish Government - details in relevant section of form
Start Year 2017
 
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 Scottish Natural Heritage 
Organisation Scottish Natural Heritage
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Our research is providing SNH with the evidence-base, in relation to fishing-environment-pipeline interactions, on which to base their advice to the regulator (BEIS).
Collaborator Contribution SNH have provided expertise on species and habitats of conservation interest to guide analysis of ROV footage
Impact (1) Evidence to government (BEIS) review (2) Presentation to Scottish Government - details in relevant section of form
Start Year 2017
 
Description Shell 
Organisation Shell International Petroleum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The CA pipefish project has quantified the risk of incidents between pipelines and fishing vessels, and the faunal associations with pipelines. This information is essential to oil and gas operators in compiling comparative assessments for pipeline decommissioning options
Collaborator Contribution Shell have provided access to ROV video footage of pipelines for quantification of faunal associations
Impact (1) Evidence to government (BEIS) review (2) Presentation to Scottish Government - details in relevant section of form
Start Year 2017
 
Description Presentation to Scottish Government 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A presentation on activities and outputs under the 'Ca- PipeFish' project was given to 7 member of the Scottish Government from the Directorate for Energy and Climate Change and the Marine Scotland Directorate . Requests were made for access to the data layers that would be produced. Discussions were held on using CA-Pipefish results as an evidence base for decommissioning policy and with current activities to develop the decommissioning supply chain in Scotland.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018