Highlands & Islands

Nuclear staff 'could' dismantle North Sea oil rigs

Oil and gas platform
Image caption Dismantling redundant rigs could run to billions of pounds

Skills gained from decommissioning the Dounreay nuclear plant could be turned to the dismantling of defunct oil and gas platforms, an expert has said.

Simon Coles, a member of industry forum Decom North Sea, said 80% of the skills at the Caithness site "overlapped" with those needed in the oil sector.

Two years ago, it was estimated that work breaking up redundant rigs could be worth £30bn by 2040.

Most of the 470 offshore structures in UK waters will need to be scrapped.

Mr Coles, a chartered mechanical engineer with Dounreay Site Restoration Limited (DSRL), told the Dounreay News: "The environmental issues of removing structures that have become natural havens for marine life are obvious.

"So, too, are the engineering and waste management issues, including the need to manage the large volumes of naturally-occurring radioactive material."

Mr Coles said many of the skills needed to meet these challenges had already been developed at Dounreay.

Removed completely

A group that included the UK government previously estimated that contracts decommissioning North Sea structures could run to £30bn by 2040, with a peak in the work occurring some time between 2015-24.

There are more than 600 oil and gas installations in the North Sea with 470 of them in UK waters, according to Oil & Gas UK.

They include thousands of miles of pipelines and steel platforms weighing more than 10,000 tonnes.

Under current regulations most of the structures once reaching the end of their usefulness would have to be removed completely and brought ashore to be recycled, or disposed of.

Aberdeen-based Decom North Sea was set up last year to explore business opportunities in oil and gas decommissioning work.

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