The influence of an oil or gas operation on its host communities continues beyond the decommissioning of assets. The extent of influence and/ or impact will vary depending on the nature of the operations, in particular the proximity of sensitive receptors (e.g. communities, commercial and recreational fisheries).
When done well, planning for closure serves as a foundation for sustained socio-economic well-being, beneficial reuse of project assets, and accountable decision-making. This ultimately contributes to an operator's social license.
However, without effective planning, stakeholders often find themselves unable to adapt to the changes brought about through decommissioning. The outcome is an operator with undue expectations and stakeholder grievances. This has been shown to impact an operator's social license to operate, which, in recent times, has been amplified by the transparency created through avenues like social media.
Social license to operate is not a new concept for the industry. To date, much of the focus has been on obtaining a social license to operate in the early stages of a project, and maintaining it during the operation phase.
What is emerging is the need to obtain and maintain a social license during the decommissioning process (and beyond). This requires good planning and extensive engagement with stakeholders, including affected communities and regulators.