The future profitability and the ultimate hydrocarbon recovery of North Sea fields are largely dictated by the management of the infrastructure used to process and transport hydrocarbons. Optimization of this infrastructure is therefore an important strategic objective for most North Sea players.

In the North Sea, a common offshore infrastructure design consists of a regional hub that collects hydrocarbons from the fields located in the catchment area. This collective production is exported by a pipeline leaving the hub. Hubs, pipelines and oil-and-gas receiving terminals are typically paid a tariff for their services. Once tariff receipts become insufficient to cover the costs of those services, many commercial agreements default to cost-sharing arrangements, where the operating costs of the facility are distributed over its user-fields1. This cost sharing generally translates into higher operating costs for these fields and may cause certain user-fields to become uneconomical. As one user-field ceases production, the infrastructure facility’s operating costs are distributed over fewer fields. This may translate into a "domino-effect" scenario, in which more and more fields become uneconomical, thereby cutting short the economic life of the infrastructure facility.

In this paper, the economic interdependencies between a hub and its user-fields are illustrated first by a generic example, then by an analysis of the Bruce hub and its user-fields in the UK North Sea. The results highlight that accurate modeling of hub and user-fields interactions can increase understanding and mitigate the risks of potential "domino-effects", in which the economics of transportation and processing facilities may deteriorate rapidly and turn large segments of the North Sea uneconomical.

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