Looking back at the presentation of Nexstep’s report 2023 “Stepping up the pace”

The abatement of summer storm Poly in the afternoon of 5th July removed the final obstacle to the presentation of the annual Re-use & Decommissioning report. Thijs Starink, General Manager of Nexstep, symbolically handed over the online report to Sybilla Dekker, chair of the North Sea Consultation.

The title of this year’s Nexstep report, “Stepping up the pace”, reflects the acceleration of the decommissioning activities in the Netherlands, in 2022. In his word of welcome, Starink explained his motivation for continuing to accelerate decommissioning, wherever possible in a more eco-friendly and futureproof manner. “I have been employed in the oil and gas industry since 1986. It is both fitting and a great honour to be able to contribute to the re-use and optimum decommissioning of the oil and gas infrastructure. We are also investigating opportunities for more innovative and eco-friendly dismantling.’

Importance of cooperation

After taking receipt of the Nexstep report, as chair of the North Sea Consultation, Sybilla Dekker reflected on the cooperation between the parties involved in decommissioning. As she put it, “I recognise how important it is that all stakeholders, including those monitoring effects on the North Sea, engage in dialogue. It is by no means self-evident for organisations of such different kinds to join forces – and yet that is precisely what is happening here. As such, Nexstep is actively demonstrating the vital importance of working together, despite differing roles and interests, as the key to achieving more than operating individually. The Nexstep report is a reflection of the different approaches that emerge from those differing roles. And that is particularly pleasing to me in my role as chair of the North Sea Consultation.

Panel discussion

Acceleration of decommissioning activities, eco-friendly dismantling and the legislation and regulations governing the decommissioning process were three of the core subjects discussed by the panel, following the presentation of the report. During those discussions, Caroline van Dalen, MT member Deep Subsoil Transition at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy emphasised the societal importance of efficient and effective removal operations as well as conducting studies into the re-use of infrastructure for example for CO₂ and hydrogen storage. Boukje van der Lecq, director Licences at State Supervision of Mines, underlined the importance of good cooperation between all stakeholders, and of safety for both people and the environment during the decommissioning process. Arendo Schreurs, director of Element NL, called for greater clarity in the application of current legislation and regulations. Heleen Vollers, Senior Project Lead Eco-friendly Offshore Energy at the North Sea Foundation, expressed her pleasure at the growing attention for the condition of the North Sea, and the willingness of the various stakeholders to investigate the value of ecological hotspots that have appeared around the hard structures on the seabed.

Shared conclusions

Everyone involved has seen how the pace of the decommissioning activities has been stepped up. Cooperation within Nexstep has indeed resulted in cost savings and a better understanding of the decommissioning processes. At the same time, evidence from practice reflects the need for greater clarity and predictability in (the application of) legislation and regulations. Sound dialogue between all parties is a valuable tool when it comes to developing additional consideration frameworks and guidelines. All parties recognise that healthy nature and biodiversity are key factors in satisfying the commonly shared desire.

Stepping up the pace” is the sixth annual Re-use & Decommissioning report by Nexstep. The report was presented at Campus@Sea in The Hague. The goal of Campus@Sea is to promote joint innovation for the sustainable, multiple use of the North Sea.