With approximately 300 of the Malaysian oil platforms approaching the end of their service life, decommissioning activities for these fixed offshore platforms are expected to rise significantly. However, due to lack of regulatory framework and weak decommissioning plans, only a handful of these offshore platforms have been decommissioned. Yet another major challenge here is the shortage of decommissioning yards to manage onshore disposal. Thus, there is an urgent need to review the various viable options available in decommissioning our used platforms.

The ‘Rigs.volution’ is a project which promotes offshore decommissioning where the old and dis-used oil and gas structures are repurposed and given a new life. By doing so, it allows our ocean space to be efficiently utilised without significant implications on our marine habitat.

Headed by Dr Noor Amila bt. Wan Abdullah Zawawi, and supported by CIDB, this project is a joint initiative by UTP’s Offshore Engineering Centre and MSSA. In line with CIDB and MSSA’s national agenda to create new opportunities for the local construction industry in terms of upskilling into oil and gas capabilities, it has undertaken a 3-year roadmap to revolutionise the decommissioning industry in Malaysia to explore sustainable solutions for its decommissioned offshore platforms. Thus, the industry is focussed to achieve sustainable decommissioning excellence and maximising the value of the assets post-decommissioning through smarter end-of-life approaches such as to re-use, re-manufacture, and to design for reparability that could help to lower decommissioning costs.

Reuse occurs when end-of-life steel is reclaimed and reused by retaining most of the original state of its material. This is an important aspect of sustainability as the energy used in remanufacturing or refurbishing is relatively small compared to the energy of the recycling process. Reuse of platforms into artificial reefs is especially frequent in the Gulf of Mexico. Their success in converting around 200 such platforms in the shallow waters of the Mexican Gulf is a great motivator.

Due to our relatively shallow water depths, vast temperature changes, salinity, and turbidity that affects plankton component changes influencing the presence of plentiful marine life, Malaysia also holds much potential in similar rig-to-reef programmes. In view of the impending rise of regional decommissioning of our offshore platforms, it is important that all stakeholders involved plan for a sustainable and profitable scheme. As second in the waste hierarchy, reusing steel has been proven to incur less environmental impact compared to recycling the same amount of steel.

Based on extensive sustainability and technical comparisons, it has been proven that reusing an end-of-production-life platform is feasible. Thus, with the appropriate technology, the proposed approach of decommissioning our end-of-life offshore platforms as a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) project would be an attainable commercial project.


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