North Sea Oil Industry Launches Twin-Track Initiative On Drill Cuttings

The UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA) is launching a major new phase of oil industry research and consultation to seek the best ways to deal with drill cuttings on the seabed – a legacy from the industrys earlier North Sea operations.

Drill cuttings emerge when wells are drilled through layers of subterranean rock, often thousands of metres deep. They vary in size from small rock chips like gravel to a fine sand, and are carried up through the well bore like sawdust from a domestic drill. Cuttings have accumulated on the seabed beneath platforms, and are known to contain traces of lubricants used in drilling operations.

As new technology develops cleaner ways of drilling, UKOOA’s twin-track Drill Cuttings Initiative will form a key part of the industrys long-term approach to environmental issues. Building on the body of industry work to date, the Initiative will implement a technical and scientific programme of research, and a broadly-based stakeholder dialogue, with the aim of identifying acceptable and practical solutions.

Shell U.K. Exploration and Production (Shell Expro) is seconding Eric Faulds, its Decommissioning Manager, to lead an industry Task Force. The independent UK charity The Environment Council has been invited to start discussions with interested stakeholders about the most appropriate dialogue process, and a first seminar is anticipated in October.

The Drill Cuttings Initiative was launched today by James May, Director-General of UKOOA; Eric Faulds, leader of the UKOOA Task Force; and Dr Lyn Arscott, Executive Director of the International E&P Forum.

James May said: The industry and independent scientists have already carried out important work on this issue and we are now accelerating it. Our initiative is to bring todays thinking and todays openness to a challenge remaining from the past. We recognise that dealing with drill cuttings residues is a key aspect of the industry’s long-term environmental challenge. We aim to work openly and constructively, and are inviting marine scientists, environmental groups, specialist contractors, regulators, other North Sea interest groups such as fishermen, and others to join forces with us in seeking the best solutions. The Norwegian oil industry organisation OLF is also keen to participate, and is discussing with its member companies a framework for how it might join UKOOA in the initiative.”

Eric Faulds said: Its important to go about this in a carefully considered way because its clear that there are no easy answers. Although a number of companies have well-developed ideas, there is no proven technology for removing old drill cuttings, and without developing new environmentally acceptable removal techniques, trying to move them could cause more environmental harm than leaving them in place. Cleaning or treating cuttings in place, at great depths on the seabed, is also surrounded by unknowns. We believe a well co-ordinated, industry-wide programme of research, technical development and field trials will harness further creative thinking and expertise – backed by an innovative dialogue to bring all views to the table, and to help guide the research and decision-making.”

Lyn Arscott said: A great deal of valuable work is now being done and has been done within the industry in several countries over the last few years. The new initiative will bring this work together, will enable us to identify and focus new work, and will provide an open forum for discussion. It is a good time to increase the momentum. We believe the initiative will yield enlightened and helpful inputs for the next international discussions on drill cuttings, to be held in February 1999 by the Sea Bed Activities group of OSPAR*.

We look forward to working with UKOOA.”

Notes to Editors:

* UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA) is the representative organisation for the UK offshore oil and gas industry. Its members are companies licensed by the Government to explore for and produce oil and gas in UK waters.

* The Oil Industry International Exploration and Production Forum (E&P Forum) is the worldwide association of oil and gas producers. Its members include private and state-owned oil companies, national associations and petroleum institutes.

* *OSPAR is the Oslo and Paris Conventions governing all aspects of marine pollution in the North East Atlantic region.

* The Environment Council is a unique charity mandated to raise awareness of environmental issues, to enhance understanding of the implications of environmental and sustainable development issues for decision making, and build sustainable solutions through the use of constructive managed dialogue with all stakeholders.

* Scientific, environmental or other groups interested in joining the Drill Cuttings Dialogue should contact: Schia Mitchell at The Environment Council on 0171 632 0119.

* Fact Sheet attached: Key Facts: Drilling, Muds and Cuttings.

* Executive Summary attached of a new report Disposal of Oil-Based Cuttings, commissioned by the OLF from the independent Norwegian research institute RF – Rogaland Research.

Further detail is published on the institute’s website: http://www.rf.no

* Illustrations attached:

Eric Faulds (Shell Expro Decommissioning Manager), leader of the UKOOA Task Force, with cuttings.

Drill cuttings to scale.

Multiple wells drilled from a single platform.

Drilling fluid circulating in a well, containing cuttings.

* This news release and the Fact Sheet are published on the UKOOA website: http://www.ukooa.co.uk

* The International E&P Forum website: http://www.eandpforum.co.uk
For more information, please call 020 7802 2400.