Infrastructure Reuse and Decommissioning - Video Transcription

Keith Whiriskey: [00:00:24] Thank you everyone for having me here. It's a delight to be back talking about CCS. When I first heard about this project about three years ago I was really excited. It was very cool to come across a project that could be delivered rapidly and hopefully show that we can do CCS in a timeframe that is shorter than my lifetime. So it's nice that we can get things moving forward and we can do things in a cost-effective way. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:00:42] In the portion of the project that we are undertaking, I was looking as the reuse of infrastructure. I work for Bellona, which is an environmental NGO based in Norway. So, the idea of being able to reuse infrastructure that was once used to extract oil and gas from the ground and to turn that around and to have the opposite effect, to undo the climate damage that's already been done by that same infrastructure, is very, very exciting for us. Also, by reusing infrastructure such as pipelines, rigs and wells we can increase the speed of deployment. We don't have to wait around for permitting and planning. We can get things moving more quickly. Also, this isn't just a Scottish story. It's not just a UK story. Across all of Europe we have a huge amount of pipelines that have been developed and are all now coming to the end of their life and end of productive use. So the lessons that we learned here can be taken to Norway and taken to the Netherlands and showing where we can use assets that we've already invested in to reuse them for reducing CO2 emissions. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:01:37] The information I'll be giving will be high level, so if you want to go into a deeper review of the reuse of pipelines and reuse of infrastructure for CCS, there is three fact sheets available on the Acorn website. There's also two much larger reports: one on the mechanics of reusing pipelines, and and the pipelines I will discuss here; and also some work on the policy options for preserving pipelines for later use, and how those pipelines can be set aside and then used at a later point for CCS. I have to say that most of the work done here was done by my colleague Marco Maver who couldn't be here today, so I'm his backstop for the day, if you will. That's the only Brexit joke of the day, I believe. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:02:18] OK, so when we think about offshore oil and gas, what do we think about? We think of a platform, these big iconic things that float the water or stand in the water; wells - these are the access points to the reservoirs where we produce oil and gas; and pipes, which are probably the basic, most simplest concept to anyone. That's just a round pipe. What you mightn't know is that a lot of the stuff has to be taken away. We've developed this over the last 50 years in the North Sea under huge capital expense, under huge human effort and ingenuity often. Some of the platforms deployed have been the largest moved objects in the entire world. So this is big stuff. So removing this stuff is also going to be exceptionally expensive. So we have a figure here of £49bn for the decommissioning. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:03:04] So that's to make these units safe and to prevent them from causing long term pollution after their end of life. So reusing this infrastructure, or part of the infrastructure that makes sense to reuse could mean that we could delay that decommissioning, that we could put aside that decommissioning for another 10 or 20 years, which would be cost saving in itself. But the cost savings aren't just with the delaying of the decommissioning, it's also the fact that you get to reuse the infrastructure again. So we're talking of pipelines: instead of them being just flooded with water, where they become of no use to anybody, we can use them in the future for CO2 transport and storage. Before we go on as well, the actual £47bn, that won't be borne entirely by industry: that will actually be to a large extent, to 50 percent more, would pay by English taxpayers. So this is something that affects us all. So finding an efficient solution to this isn't just something for a private industry, it's also something that we're already planning to pay for. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:03:56] So, the first thing that we learned when we started diving into this is that the potential for use is very much a case by case basis. Just because I say that we can reuse infrastructure in the North Sea doesn't mean that you should take any rig or any well off any oil company that offers [it] to you. We have to very clear that some of this stuff will not be useful for carbon capture and storage in the future, but others will. So we need to delve deeply and make sure that the pipelines, our rigs are in the right place and they have the right conditions for transport and storage. Also, due to the heterogeneity - so the differences - every rig is very boutique: it's not the same everywhere. And the same with wells, that it's very difficult to make an assessment of which ones will be useful for CCS. They also come with much larger liabilities, they've been in place for much longer, they have higher liabilities that are associated with them. So we focus primarily on pipeline reuse. Pipelines are much easier to assess and for CO2 transport and storage, the cost savings are probably much higher. Through a simple assessment, we saw that the capex costs could easily be 70 percent lower in reusing a pipeline that currently exists. And that also depends on how long the pipeline needs to be multipled - so how long we have to leave that pipeline there without an active use. The reduced environmental impacts are obvious. You don't have to remove a pipeline just to plant a new pipeline there a few years later. Also the timing is very important as well, because you can reuse and get access to the storage sites more rapidly. Another thing that mightn't be exactly obvious is that when it comes to the narrative of carbon capture and storage and CO2 transport, the reuse of infrastructure becomes very important as well. So it doesn't just make the deployment of projects more rapid, but it also means that we can show that the industries and the techniques that have been used to produce carbon from the underground, and to produce what is the larger point of our climate changing global warming challenge, can actually serve as part of the solution. And it means that capital that we've invested in producing hydrocarbons can now be turned around to actually remove CO2 and to reduce CO2. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:05:54] This is where the numbers get quite scary and a little bit disappointing. So in the next five and a half years or a little bit more 580 pipelines will be decommissioned in the North Sea. And at the moment there's no official way of assessing these for reuse for CO2 transport and storage. So if we're back here in 2025 we can be lamenting the fact that all these pipelines have gone away and we'll just have to swallow that and start building new pipelines. But hopefully we won't do that. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:06:21] One of the issues is the removal of the transfer of liability and costs. If you're currently looking at the reuse of a pipeline in the North Sea, there is no business case for CO2 transport storage, as yet. The ETS price is too low and prospective projects aren't exactly lining up just yes. So if you do a normal cost-based assessment you will say the sensible thing to do is to decommission this asset, and you won't think twice about it. That needs to change. We need to have a slight longer term vision. I know, I've been working with climate change for almost the last 10 years. You can't produce an outcome to climate change that doesn't involve CCS. Every assessment with the IPCC, with the EU long term strategy and every assessment done by the Committee for Climate Change shows that CCS is critical. So we just need to have a bit of a slightly longer term thought about the infrastructure we have and how we can repurpose that infrastructure. So we need to think slightly beyond our own noses when it comes to this decommissioning that we're currently living through right now. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:07:14] As I mentioned decommissioning is happening in the UK first, but it will also spread to Norway and the Netherlands. The UK is slightly ahead in this, so it's up to the UK to show how we can start preserving this critical infrastructure and others will follow. You can't wait for other people to invent this for you because you're at the cutting edge. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:07:31] I'm going to now delve into the three pipelines that we've suggested be the most critical ones for preservation. You have the Atlantic pipeline, the Goldeneye pipeline and the Miller gas system. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:07:40] Some of these numbers are quite staggering actually. So you have a pipeline that has the potential to transport 5 million tons of CO2 a year. That's a lot. That is about five very large cement plants. It's a reasonably-sized steel manufacturing facility. So these are big scale. They have the potential to remove a lot of CO2 and to move a lot of CO2. The cost of replacing this pipeline once it's decommissioned will be £100 million pounds, so it's also big money. It's not cheap to do that. And there's a cost saving that will just go up in smoke if these are decommissioned as they are currently planned to. And, of course, this is the pipe that is only just four years old. So as we say it's had one owner and this hasn't really gone a very long distance. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:08:24] The Goldeneye pipeline. You might be familiar with this pipeline: it was also characterised for the Goldeneye project by Shell a few years ago. Replacing this pipeline would be £132 million. It also has a very large throughput of 4 million tonnes. The throughput is the really important number here. Most people think when you're reusing a pipeline designed for natural gas that you will get a lower amount of CO2 transport. But these numbers show that the actual scale of CO2 movement you're getting is actually significant. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:08:51] And here is the big one: 10 million tonnes from the Miller gas system pipeline. It's a bit older, but the research has shown that it's perfectly available for use and all of these are fine within technical feasibility. So there's no game stopper to reusing any of these pipelines for CO2. It's just within the normal assessment of how engineers go about doing their job and basically how we think about doing it. I like this fact as well. It would take 11.5 hours to run the length of the Miller pipeline, which, for me, I think that would be more like 24 hours. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:09:24] So, as I mentioned, the current standard call is for all of these pipelines to go away. And that's fine, we can do that. To make them go away, actually, you don't even take them out of the ocean, you just open the ends and fill them with saltwater, so they just become useless. The steel remains down there, but the pipeline, as far as use for CO2 transport and storage is gone. It's not available to us anymore. So if we want to save these pipelines, we need to have a rationale to do it and we need to inform the companies and the government has to be involved in doing that to say that these pipelines should remain mothballed and should remain available. To do that you need to remove the fog over CCS: of saying that 'CCS will happen in the future but I don't know when'. It's up to the government to say that these pipelines will be used at a certain date in the future for transporting CO2. That is the only way we can realistically preserve them. Ideally a plan that's becoming more common now throughout European countries is that you have a centralised body that would organise the development of CO2 transport and storage. Such a body would be perfectly able to take over these pipelines and preserve them for use in their long term planning. Also these pipelines would be available then to make the basis of a CO2 transport and storage network. It's much easier to plan CO2 storage sites, and it's much easier to plan where you will capture CO2 from, when you know where your network will start to be developed. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:10:41] So, on everyone's table there should be a little postcard. The postcard lists the scale of the pipelines that will be decommissioned. It also shows the pipelines that we have selected as the ones that should be a priority for preservation and also talks about the cost savings we can have. So if you think it's worthwhile to start making a fuss about saving some of these pipelines and preserving them for CO2 transport in Scotland, to start to a CO2 transport business and enterprise in Scotland, then if you could sign this and place it in the box here and we'll send them off and we'll get some movement going and preserving the infrastructure that we've already paid for and that we'll be forced to pay to get rid of. But if we can keep it we can actually use it for something good. So, removing CO2. 


Keith Whiriskey: [00:11:20] Cheers. Thank you.