Decommissioning

When an oil field is depleted, the decommissioning of the production facilities follows. The activities carried out during the decommissioning phase include the safe removal of the pre-treatment plant, the platform structures, the compression structures and the hydrocarbon dispatch facilities and the removal of the wellheads and the pipelines that connect to the collection points. Following the dismantling of the production facilities, there is the environmental restoration phase. The areas where the wells and the treatment facilities were located are reclaimed and restored to pre-mining conditions, with the planting of grasses and trees. As far as the decommissioning of offshore facilities is concerned, operations to safely plug and abandon the well must be carried out and the installations and pipelines that connected the platform to treatment facilities on land must be removed. These operations are very delicate and require specialised personnel in order to avoid adverse environmental impacts. Once the installations have been removed, suitable sites must be identified for materials that cannot be reused and for the disposal of potentially polluting products. An alternative to the dismantling and removal of offshore installations envisages the reuse of disused platforms in-situ as artificial barriers, for example. In fact, it has been observed that many artificial structures placed in open water are soon colonised by benthic macrofauna and by a large number of fish species that find a suitable habitat to reproduce. Another alternative is the installation of offshore wind turbines on the disused platforms. In fact, these offshore platforms can support wind turbines with the advantage that they are far from the coast, where the winds are strong and constant, and where there they do not have a negative effect on the landscape. The option of leaving disused offshore platforms in place must be carefully evaluated from an environmental and a legislative point of view.

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