A multi-criteria decision approach to decommissioning of offshore oil and gas infrastructure

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Ocean and Coastal Management, 2014, 87 pp. 20 - 29
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Thousands of the world's offshore oil and gas structures are approaching obsolescence and will require decommissioning within the next decade. Many nations have blanket regulations requiring obsolete structures to be removed, yet this option is unlikely to yield optimal environmental, societal and economic outcomes in all situations. We propose that nations adopt a flexible approach that allows decommissioning options to be selected from the full range of alternatives (including 'rigs-to-reefs' options) on a case-by-case basis. We outline a method of multi-criteria decision analysis (Multi-criteria Approval, MA) for evaluating and comparing alternative decommissioning options across key selection criteria, including environmental, financial, socioeconomic, and health and safety considerations. The MA approach structures the decision problem, forces explicit consideration of trade-offs and directly involves stakeholder groups in the decision process. We identify major decommissioning options and provide a generic list of selection criteria for inclusion in the MA decision process. To deal with knowledge gaps concerning environmental impacts of decommissioning, we suggest that expert opinion feed into the MA approach until sufficient data become available. We conducted a limited trial of the MA decision approach to demonstrate its application to a complex and controversial decommissioning scenario; Platform Grace in southern California. The approach indicated, for this example, that the option 'leave in place intact' would likely provide best environmental outcomes in the event of future decommissioning. In summary, the MA approach will allow the environmental, social, and economic impacts of decommissioning decisions to be assessed simultaneously in a transparent manner. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
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