In the past 70 years the world has relied extensively for its energy needs based on hydrocarbons produced significantly offshore. In recent years many installations with fixed platforms and pipelines are reaching the end of their useful life and are required by law to be decommissioned and removed if an approved alternative use cannot be found. This process coincides with focus on decarbonization arising from global warming and climate change. The conventional way of decommissioning is to remove the structure and take it onshore for disposal. Such an activity costs around £28 million for smaller UKCS installations in the Southern North Sea. Possible alternative solutions include their use as a research-leisure complex and artificial reef. Such an approach would have less impact on the environment and it is therefore worthwhile to explore the feasibility of repurposing these decommissioned UKCS platforms.
The paper begins by highlighting the background to UKCS offshore decommissioning and farming fish life-cycle. This is followed by a critical review of the three options of total and partial removals and leave-on-site. It is found that repurposing decommissioned platforms for aquaculture farm has not been given sufficient attention and thus offers scope for a project to explore the feasibility of such a solution. Existing offshore fish farming in various countries are examined before using a decision-making matrix to select the most suitable UKCS installation for conversion and this led to using a normally unattended gas platform for the case study.
The focus for this paper is on design and operation of an unattended fish farm and its cost benefit analysis. The former covers fish cage selection, capacity calculation, fish handling procedures, fish feed characteristics, feed demand, designing feed logistics and storage system. The processing facilities are layout on two decks and power needs are generated using a hybrid system of diesel and Li-ion battery. The possibility of using renewable sources by connecting to wind energy grids was also considered. For the latter capital and operating expenditure, revenue generated and maintenance costs are estimated before performing net present value prediction of the profitability of the fish farm over 10 years with for example up to 8 cages and three discount rates.
The main conclusions derived are: It is technically feasible to convert a decommissioned gas platform to a fish farm and the operation can be economic. However, liability transfer implications in a repurposed offshore decommissioned gas platforms to fish farms were not established to verify the project viability.
The conversion of unattended offshore gas platforms in the UKCS to an automated offshore fish farm is a novel solution which has not been implemented in the North Sea before. The work will provide an economic and environmental friendly solution to decommissioning offshore platforms and provide with a possible profitable investment.