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NEWS & INSIGHTS | article

Scottish global hub aims to transform decommissioning

11 January 2019


  • Unique partnership between The Oil & Gas Technology Centre and University of Aberdeen
  • £38 million investment to create world-leading research and development centre
  • Focused on reducing costs, extending field life and science-based thought leadership

The National Decommissioning Centre (NDC), a global technology R&D hub, is today opened by Lord Duncan, UK Government Minister for Scotland and Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Scottish Energy Minister, in Newburgh, in North-East Scotland’s Energetica Corridor.

The government ministers joined industry and civic leaders to celebrate the launch of this long-term £38m partnership between the Oil & Gas Technology Centre and the University of Aberdeen, part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal.

100 offshore platforms and 5,700km of pipeline are forecast to be decommissioned or reused over the next decade on the UK Continental Shelf. With the Oil and Gas Authority estimating the total cost of oil and gas decommissioning to be £58bn, the NDC will help industry deliver the >35% cost reduction target set by the regulator in 2016.

Combining industry expertise with academic excellence, the Centre aims to work in partnership with companies to become the global leader in research and development (R&D) focused on reducing costs, extending field and asset life, and transforming the traditional approach to decommissioning.

The NDC builds on the world-leading R&D capability at the University of Aberdeen in areas such as decommissioning technologies, predictive modelling, environmental assessment and the economics of decommissioning.

The Centre is in advanced discussions with several anchor partners, focused on bringing together academic researchers, experts from industry and business partners with the best experience, ideas and equipment to create a unique environment for collaborative R&D.

The NDC is home to the most powerful industrial laser at any UK academic institution, a state-of-the-art digital visualisation and collaboration suite, and a supercomputer cluster enabling the fast simulation and modelling of innovative decommissioning scenarios.

This includes facilities for technology trials and rapid prototyping, with a hyperbaric testing vessel that can simulate ocean conditions of 6,500m, an indoor freshwater immersion tank, environmental chambers for temperature testing from -40C to +180C and hangar space for the design and construction of decommissioning technology.

Led by Professor Richard Neilson from the University of Aberdeen and the OGTC’s Dr Russell Stevenson, the NDC is developing a wide-ranging, industry-led research programme, with dedicated access to the brightest and best PhD and MSc students, and several projects are already underway. 

Linking industry demand and expertise with academic capability and skills will help create

competitive advantage, not only for the oil and gas industry, but for decommissioning

challenges in the wider energy sector, for example, in offshore renewables.

The NDC will also collaborate with R&D institutions and innovation centres across the country active in late life asset management and decommissioning, and partner with fishing, marine, safety and environment organisations in the UK and internationally.

Colette Cohen, Chief Executive Officer, the Oil & Gas Technology Centre, said:

“We’re delighted to be working in partnership with the University of Aberdeen to establish the National Decommissioning Centre. Together we’ll provide access to the brightest and best academic minds and help companies accelerate new technologies that transform mature field management and decommissioning.

“The Centre will partner with industry and academia to deliver technology, share knowledge and provide thought leadership to reduce costs, extend field life, and challenge the conventional approach to decommissioning. We’re now talking with several anchor companies to co-invest in this exciting new facility and help shape our research programme.

“With the global decommissioning market set to grow to £80bn over the next decade, we will work with supply chain companies and technology developers in Scotland, and across the UK, to help them develop the capability to meet domestic demand and drive export growth across the world.”

George Boyne, Principal of the University of Aberdeen, said:

“The University’s partnership with the OGTC is testament to our shared commitment to establish the National Decommissioning Centre as a global leader in research and development, building on this region’s strong track record in innovation in industry and the sciences.

“Our research programmes will nurture academic and technical expertise through PhD opportunities that will anchor research talent here in the north-east of Scotland, while the University’s Masters programme and continuous professional development course in decommissioning will provide companies with the opportunity to upskill their staff.

“By building expertise at all levels – academic and within industry – we will create competitive advantage for the oil and gas industry, and for decommissioning challenges in the wider energy sector, for example offshore renewables.

“I am delighted that the University is part of this exciting project and look forward to a bright and successful future.”

UK Energy and Clean Growth Minister, Claire Perry, said: 

“The National Decommissioning Centre will lay the groundwork for the UK to become a global leader in offshore oil and gas decommissioning – an industry set to grow to be worth around £80 billion in the next 10 years.

“Cutting-edge facilities and technology will equip new and existing talent with the right skills to transition to this growing sector, creating a wealth of high-skilled jobs to boost earning power – a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy.”

Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland’s Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands said:

“I’m delighted the Aberdeen City Region Deal has helped enable today’s launch of a global technology hub at the vanguard of industry collaboration, research and development.

“The National Decommissioning Centre has a key role to play to help all of Scotland unlock new opportunities. In doing so, it will cement the country as the place for decommissioning expertise.  This is why last April we provided a further £1.9 million in funding towards the establishment of the Centre of Excellence here in Newburgh.

“I have no doubt under the excellent leadership of both University of Aberdeen’s Professor Richard Neilson and the Oil and Gas Technology Centre’s Dr Russell Stevenson, the Centre will help to make great strides in increasing sector knowledge on new approaches to decommissioning and demonstrating routes for cost reduction.”

Lord Duncan, UK Government Minister for Scotland said:

“The National Decommissioning Centre is a real and tangible benefit to the region of the Aberdeen City Region Deal. This presents an exciting opportunity to establish a centre of excellence in the North-East of Scotland which will develop new capabilities, skills and jobs to meet the decommissioning challenge now and in the years ahead.  It will be funded in partnership by the UK Government, Scottish Government, University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University and the private sector.  

“It’s been two years since the Aberdeen City Region Deal started to make a huge difference to the region’s economy. The Deal is helping to boost jobs and prosperity and is driving growth across the region. To date the UK Government has committed more than £1.1 billion to City Region Deals right across Scotland.”


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