(Photo c/o Ramfjord Technologies)

Finding Gold in Garbage

With Norway decommissioning many of its oil and gas platforms, it raises a question, “can this decommissioning lead to a new, sustainable and circular industry”? According to some experts, it can.

“As economists, we tend to believe one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and where there’s gold, there are often gold-diggers already there,” said Gunnar S. Eskeland, Professor of Resource and Environmental Economics at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH). Through his research, he believes that “there are great opportunities and potential for employment, value creation and circularity”.

Harald Ramfjord, CEO of Ramfjord Technology AS, agrees. His firm develops cutting technology that utilises synthetic diamonds. He also believes that decommissioning can create new industries and value chains.

Ramfjord cited that oil platforms were built using rare components like nickel, cobalt, and copper. “These are used heavily in the oil and gas industry, but there’s obviously a limited supply and they can only be mined from the earth,” he said.                                                        

He believes that if companies were able to extract, recycle and recirculate these metals from decommissioned oil and gas platforms, it would help satisfy their demand, benefit the environment, and possibly cultivate a new, profitable market.


Harald Ramfjord
(Photo c/o Ramfjord Technologies)

The green shift

With the green shift, Norway has begun shifting its focus from oil and gas to renewable energy. As a result, oil platforms, production wells and thousands of kilometres of cables and pipelines will eventually stop being used.

“It’s clear that the number of offshore projects approaching the end of their lifespan is increasing, and we see a clear need to increase knowledge and expertise in decommissioning, as well as opportunities for circularity and sustainable value creation,” said Eskeland.
 

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Taking apart a platform

Since most of these oil and gas structures are on the Norwegian continental shelf, it is usually the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy that approves licenses for oil and gas extraction.

There are strict requirements for oil and gas firms to get these licenses. This includes a “decommissioning plan”, where they outline how they plan to shut down their operations and remove their platforms and rigs. However, exceptions are sometimes made.


Prof. Gunnar S. Eskeland
(Photo c/o NHH)

Eskeland co-initiated the PRE-DECOR research project, intending to investigate some of the critical aspects of decommissioning.

“Our concern is that this will be done in an ad-hoc way, since every time something has to be plugged and abandoned, it’s treated as if it’s a one-time deal. They could, in fact, be done in a better way and competence needs to be built,” said Eskeland.  


Download the PRE-DECOR project’s final report


Moving Forward

As Norway moves towards renewable energy, oil and gas platforms will continue to be decommissioned and shelved.

Eskeland believes that lessons learned from the oil and gas sector can be applied towards new, emerging markets, such as renewable energy and beyond. “As we progress with decommissioning in the petroleum industry, we can see and take with us lessons and learnings for this emerging industry,” he said.   

Ramfjord agrees that cultivating knowledge and innovation within various industries will help generate a new market in Norway.

“If you can incorporate a cessation program into a decommissioning program so that you can maximise the output from this, with new businesses arising, newly-educated engineers, and new products to offer within these up-and-coming markets, then you’re on the right track,” he summarised.


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