Stakeholder engagement is a critical element in offshore decommissioning projects. If stakeholders are engaged well, it can bring benefits to the decommissioning project through cost reduction, improved scheduling, and improved relationships. However, if stakeholders are antagonized, the influence and impact of these stakeholders will not only affect the operating company alone, but the entire oil and gas industry as well.
Stakeholder landscape varies from location to location. In the United Kingdom, and also in the Bass Straits of Australia, commercial fisheries and trawlers have a significant lobby which can potentially derail any offshore activities. In other areas such as the North-West Shelf of Western Australia, recreational fisheries tend to be more influential than other stakeholders (Askew & Lea-Cox, 2017). In areas such as the Timor Sea, local communities are more concerned about the impact of offshore projects on their standard of living (Clyne & Jackson, 2014; Lundahl & Sjöholm, 2008). As such, it is important for operators to adapt their stakeholder engagement philosophies and strategies to suit different stakeholder landscapes.
Stakeholder engagement strategies can be anywhere along the visibility spectrum, ranging from low visibility targeted engagements (Phillips UK's Maureen, BP UK's Miller, CNRI's Murchison, Woodside's Balnaves, and PTTEP's Challis and Jabiru), to high visibility public events (BP UK's North-West Hutton, Fairfield's Dunlin, Shell's Brent). Holding high visibility events to highlight engineering feats and successes can improve the operator's recognition among its peers in the industry. However, the action, while not intended, may come off as arrogant, ignorant, and overbearing to public stakeholders outside the industry. In some cases, high profile events will only remind public stakeholders about past interactions and mistakes, highlighting how environmentally and socially impacting decommissioning projects can be.
The level of visibility of stakeholder engagement strategies for any decommissioning project depends on three factors: 1) Past stakeholder interactions, 2) Past media coverage, and 3) Amount of components with high environmental and social risks. For example, if a decommissioning project have a lot of past stakeholder interaction and media coverage, and a lot if environmental and socially risky components, then the ideal stakeholder interaction strategy should be more discreet and low profile.
As such, it is important for operators to be aware of the characteristics of their portfolio and assets when developing stakeholder engagement strategies.