The approach to decommissioning and the associated costs are very different between the US and the UK.
"The smaller the project, the bigger the difference in cost between the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico approaches," Patrick O'Connor, senior advisor BP Americas, told participants at the International Society of Offshore and Polar Enginering meeting in Toulon, France.
BP was able to see those differences clearly in collecting bids for a recent decommissioning project to be done in the Middle East. Because the decommissioning site was not in the GoM or the North Sea, environmental and regulatory differences between the US and UK were not an issue. Despite that, the difference in cost for portions of the project were as high as 10 times greater in portions of the UK estimate.
O'Connor compared schedules between North Sea and GoM decommissioning projects and pointed out that a project that could take six years in the UK could be completed in six months in the GoM. The obvious time and cost differences could have led to the observation that the UK plan should be modified to reflect advantages of the GoM approach. O'Connor, however, stopped short of that conclusion, saying cost is not the only factor to be considered. Neither approach is inherently better. "They are just different," O'Connor said.
O'Connor suggested that rethinking philosophies is a first step. The next step would be to evaluate the approaches to find best practices that could benefit both groups. He also proposed that the GoM, because of the relatively benign environment, could be used to test new decommissioning technologies.
The UK and US should work together to advance technologies for facilities and well plugging and abandonment across the board, O'Connor said.