The Netherlands: Shell must remove old oil rigs from the North Sea

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The Netherlands believes that the United Kingdom should not permit Shell to leave three old drilling platforms on the North Sea. Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen in London will announce this at the Ospar meeting, the organization of countries on the North Sea.

Shell wants to leave the foundations of three drilling platforms, instead of cleaning them up. As a result, storage tanks with 11,000 liters of contaminated oil and chemical waste also remain on the seabed. According to Shell, that is best because disposal can also cause environmental damage and is also dangerous. 

Last week, the international environmental organization Greenpeace protested at Shell's drilling platforms in the North Sea against what is called 'a repeat of the Brent-Spar affair'. When Shell for the first time in 1991 did not want to dismantle and dismantle an old oil storage station in the North Sea, but wanted to sink it at the bottom of the ocean, there was great international outrage. Shell was eventually forced to bring the installation ashore and to have it demolished.

The Dutch minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Van Nieuwenhuizen, has had an independent counter-investigation conducted by the Danish University of Copenhagen. This shows that Shell is exaggerating the objections and risks. The company has 'insufficiently substantiated' that the concrete legs cannot be removed properly and that it would be better to leave the contaminated material on the seabed. That is why extra research needs to be done, says Van Nieuwenhuizen. 

In addition, the company could save hundreds of millions of euros in costs, although that argument was not decisive. Shell's application has not yet been rejected by the United Kingdom. London has to make a decision because the drilling platforms are in British territorial waters. London has now requested advice from the so-called OSPAR countries. This organization includes the European countries that border on the northeastern part of the Atlantic Ocean. The aim is to protect nature and natural reserves. 

Other North Sea countries may object to a possible British permit. Germany has already done that, and the Netherlands agrees. After this OSPAR consultation, it is the turn of the British. They can decide to simply issue the permit or to have it examined further. 

There are around 600 drilling platforms in the North Sea that will have to be cleared in the coming decades. Costs: around 8 billion euros. All platforms that are at a water depth of less than 100 meters and that weigh less than 10,000 tons must be removed. The North Sea is used not only for oil and gas extraction, but also for fishing, by ships, by submarines, and for the construction of cables and wind farms.