Platform removal – requirements and procedures

person by Finn Harald Sandberg, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
It became clear in the early 1990s that several of Norway’s oil and gas fields were nearing their productive life. Legislation to govern the shutdown process was therefore required.
— Removal of Ekofisk 2/4 FTP. Photo: Ukjent/conocoPhillips
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Various statutes and decisions were unified and expanded with the passage of the Petroleum Act on 29 November 1996. This included the first provisions on the process for shutting down and removing platforms and other large petroleum facilities.

Dismantling of 2/4 T. Photo: Kjetil Alsvik / ConocoPhillips

Such cessation involves taking away all or nearly all of the physical installations on the field and plugging all the wells to prevent possible leaks from the reservoir.

The weight of steel and equipment to be removed from fixed platforms on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) totals almost 1.8 million tonnes.

Most of this must be picked up on the field by heavy-lift vessels and shipped to land for treatment and scrapping. If the whole topsides weigh less than 20 000 tonnes, they can be lifted off in a single operation.

Production floaters can be towed to land for taking apart with the aid of cranes at the breaker’s yard. Steel and equipment on these weigh about 1.1 million tonnes.

The concrete hulls used on a few floating platforms will probably end up being scuttled in deep water.

In addition come the 10 big concrete Condeep gravity base structures (GBS), and not least the subsea installations on the many fields spread from the Barents Sea to the Danish boundary.

Since drilling began on the NCS in 1966, 6 283 exploration, appraisal and production wells have been sunk in the Norway’s North and Barents Sea sectors and the intervening Norwegian Sea.

Of these, 4 731 are regarded as part of the production process and almost 60 per cent have ceased to be used. About 600 remained to be plugged.

Platform removal is therefore set to be a big and extensive activity in coming years, which will largely benefit Norwegian industry. The value of such work has been put at more than NOK 500 billion.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Vikane, Allen, Development of a Decommissioning Cost Estimating Model for Oil and Gas Fields on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, MSc thesis, 2018: 215.

Historical overview

Fjerning av plattformer – krav og prosedyre,
Abandoned fields (felt) on the Norwegian shelf pr. 31.12.2019 ( Note that Yme and Tor which are closed fields are not included in the list as status pr. 3.12.2019 is that they will reopen and have the tag "approved for production".

The Odin platform, which was considered part of the Frigg area, was removed by Aker Maritime in 1996-97 and shipped to Stord south of Bergen.

This ranks as the first complete production platform to be removed from the NCS, with 98 per cent of the installation being recycled.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Frigg Industrial Heritage, Odin, [Accessed 31 January 2019].

The first structures to be removed in the Greater Ekofisk Area were Cod and Edda. Production had ceased from the following NCS fields at 1 January 2019.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, Fact Pages [Accessed 31 January 2019].

So this is not a new industry on the NCS. Apart from the major Frigg and Ekofisk I projects, however, activity has been modest since overall Norwegian production began to decline in 2005.

However, these cessation and removal operations are set to expand steadily in coming years as operating costs exceed revenues on more and more fields.

Although no legal requirements on how platforms were to be removed existed before the late 1990s, the government required cessation costs to be calculated from the late 1980s.

These estimates were included in the field’s plan for development and operation (PDO), and the licensees were required to set aside funds to pay for ultimate removal.

Ceasing petroleum activities is now subject to the provisions of the Petroleum Act, which specify that a licence must prepare a plan for shutting down and disposing off a field’s facilities.

This must be done in good time – two-five years before production finally ends – and regulations issued under the Act set out the required content in such a cessation plan.

It must comprise two parts – a disposal section and an impact assessment. These national requirements comply with recommendations in international agreements.

The impact assessment must describe the anticipated environmental and climate effects of the disposal solutions which have been assessed.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Equinor, Avslutningsplan Statfjord A, Konsekvensutredning, August 2018.

Parameters for removing obsolete facilities are specified in the UN convention on the law of the sea (Unclos). On that basis, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) issued guidelines on decommissioning offshore installations in 1989.

Designed to safeguard freedom of navigation, these are not binding. Generally speaking, they call for the removal of fixed facilities with a steel jacket weighing more than 4 000 tonnes.

These structures must be located in areas with waters less than 75 metres deep, or sections left standing in deeper waters must provide a free sailing draft of 50 metres.

The OSPAR logo

Where the north-east Atlantic is concerned, the Oslo-Paris (Ospar) convention has established specific criteria related to redundant offshore installations.

Its decision 98/3 does not impose a general ban on dumping or abandoning such structures. Full removal is required for topsides and steel jackets weighing less than 10 000 tonnes.

Since the jackets for the drilling and production platforms on Frigg weighed about 9 200 and 7 600 tonnes at installation, their removal was mandatory pursuant to Ospar 98/3.

This enactment permits exceptions if the national authorities can demonstrate that they are justified on technical, safety or environmental grounds.

If exporting installations for breaking up abroad is relevant, provisions the European Economic Area agreement which regulate such transactions.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Aker BP, Avvikling av de opprinnelige bore- og prosessplattformene på Valhall. Forslag til program for konsekvensutredning, 28 June 2018.

Ekofisk 2/4 T is left as an empty shell. Photo: Kjetil Alsvik / ConocoPhillips

The big concrete structures, such as the massive fixed Condeeps, have been considered for exemptions in accordance with these rules.

It has been accepted on the NCS that the Ekofisk tank and the Frigg GBSs can remain after their topsides have been removed. The same is true of Brent and Beryl in the UK North Sea.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Shell UK, Brent Bravo, Charlie and Delta GBS Decommissioning Technical Document, Shell report number BDE-F-GBS-BA-5801-00001, February 2017.

Moreover, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) has initiated two studies to examine opportunities for removing the concrete giants in connection with future shutdowns.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Dr techn Olav Olsen AS, 11318-OO-R-0001-B Disponering av betonginnretninger, 19 October 2010.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Dr techn Olav Olsen AS, 12635-01-OO-R-001 Markedsrapport knyttet til avslutning og disponering avslutning og disponering av utrangerte innretninger, 23 April 2018.

NPD guidelines

As a government regulator answering to the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, the NPD’s main goal is to help secure the highest possible value for society from the oil and gas business.

This is achieved through efficient and prudent resource management. With other official agencies, it will ensure that the petroleum sector is regulated in an integrated manner.

The NPD establishes relevant operating parameters, issues regulations and takes decisions where it has been delegated responsibility.[REMOVE]Fotnote: NPD website.

Plugging wells

Wells can be abandoned either temporarily, if opportunities/plans exist for future reopening, or permanently. In the latter case, it must be sealed in perpetuity – in practice 600-700 years.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Øia, T and Spieler, J O, Plug and abandonment status on the Norwegian continental shelf, 2015.

A method commonly used for describing the phases in plugging a well comes from Oil & Gas UK.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Oil & Gas UK, Guidelines on Well Abandonment Cost Estimation, 2015. This splits the process into three phases and four levels of complexity. The phases are:

  • reservoir shut-in: pumping down kill fluid with a density sufficient to prevent fluid entering the borehole from any exposed formation in the reservoir, and installing mechanical plugs
  • temporary abandonment: removing piping and equipment from the seabed (everything above production packers), logging existing cement and installing permanent barriers
  • wellhead removal: with explosives, cutting by special tool or water under high pressure.
Published 29. July 2019   •   Updated 3. March 2020
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Knut Åm – oil and gas veteran

person by Kristin Øye Gjerde, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
The special contribution made by Knut Åm to Phillips Petroleum Company was one reason for his appointment in 2014 as a Knight First Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St Olav.
— Knut Åm in his office in 1993. Photo: Dag Myrestrand/ConocoPhillips
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Åm was born at Årdal in the Sogn district of western Norway in 1944, and grew up in Oppdal and Volda/Ørsta where he proved an able pupil at school. 

He opted to study mining engineering at the Norwegian Institute of Technology (NTH) in Trondheim, graduating with honours in 1967. 

Åm’s first job was with the Norwegian Geological Survey (NGU), again in Trondheim, where he worked and conducted research for six years. One of his jobs was to interpret aeromagnetic measurements of sub-surface rocks made from the air, which provide valuable information on geology and prospects for finding petroleum. In a series of publications, he described the big sedimentary basins identified in the Skagerrak between Norway and Denmark and in the Norwegian and Barents Seas. 

He joined the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) in 1974, serving as a section head in the resource department and a principal engineer in the safety department. 

That was followed by three years with Statoil, where he became the state oil company’s first vice president for research and development. His appointments at the time included chairing a research programme on offshore safety, which led to legislation enacted by the Storting (parliament) and a bigger research effort. 

Joining Phillips

olje og gassveteran knut åm,
Hovedkontoret til ConocoPhillips i Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Foto: ConocoPhillips

Åm secured a job with Phillips in 1982 and was soon sent to the head office at Bartlesville in Oklahoma to get better acquainted with the company and its corporate culture. 

After a year in the USA, he returned to the company’s Tananger office outside Stavanger and became the first Norwegian to serve as offshore manager for the Greater Ekofisk Area (GEA). 

That put him in charge of 23 platforms, with responsibility for the waterflooding programme as well as the project to jack up a number of the installations. These major developments extended the producing life of the GEA and sharply increased estimates for recoverable reserves from its fields. 

Åm led this work during difficult times, with low oil prices and the need to implement cost savings and overcome substantial financial challenges. As if that were not enough, he also taught at the University of Bergen from 1985 to 1990 as an adjunct (part-time) professor of applied geophysics. 

First Norwegian chief executive

Knut åm,
Knut Åm ved kontorpulten i 1993. Foto: Dag Myrestrand/ConocoPhillips

After heading operations in the Permian and San Juan Basins at Odessa, Texas, from 1988-91, Åm became the first Norwegian president and managing director for Phillips Petroleum Norway. 

That put him in charge of 3 000 employees in the GEA as well as in Tananger, Oslo, Teesside and Emden. This was when a redevelopment of Ekofisk was planned, along with the future cessation and removal of old platforms.[REMOVE]Fotnote: 

By 1996, Åm was back in Bartlesville – now as vice president and head of all exploration and production in Phillips. He stayed in that job until retiring in the USA during 1999.

Offices and committees

But his working life did not end there. Appointments from 1999 to 2007 include membership of the Statoil board – and many similar posts can be mentioned. 

Åm has been president of the Norwegian Geological Council and the Norwegian Petroleum Society, and chair of the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (now the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association). 

He led the exhibition committee of the 1996 ONS oil show in Stavanger, and has chaired Bergen’s Christian Michelsen Research institute as well as the industrial council of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.  

In addition to chairing Hitec ASA, he has been a director of several technology companies. 

Mention must also be made of the improved recovery committee appointed by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy with Åm as chair. This produced a report in September 2010 which presented 44 specific measures for improving the recovery factor on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS). 

Through his work and many appointments, Åm has been acclaimed for a combination of expertise, creativity and determination.  He also demonstrated the ability to tackle the requirements of Norway as a nation as well as the industry and its employees – not least with regard to the working environment and safety in a demanding and risky offshore industry. 


In retirement, Åm is an optimist – with regard to the climate as well. “I’m very concerned with nature, but believe we should extract the resources its given us,” he told Otium in 2016. 

“Norway could have a long and good future in the oil and gas industry if people give it more support. Exploring for new deposits is important, but we should also seek to achieve a far better recovery factor from both new and existing fields.” 

“You can naturally concentrate on life’s negative aspects. Then everything’s simply awful. I think you’ll be a far happier person if you prefer to see the positive side of life. I call that self-motivation. We need more of that in the energy sector.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: 

Published 21. October 2019   •   Updated 21. October 2019
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Knut Ove Kristensen – veteran manager with his heart in HSE

person Kjersti Melberg, Norwegian Petroleum Museum. Based on an interview with Kristensen on 12 September 2019.
More than forty-five years of service on Ekofisk underpin Knut Ove Kristensen’s status as a pioneering leader on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS). His involvement began in 1974 when he switched from a career at sea to become a process technician for Phillips Petroleum.
— Knut Ove Kristensen in conversation with process apprentice Fredrik Svindland Theissen (left) and operations manager Siri Friestad. Photo: ConocoPhillips
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Early promotion and trust followed, and he served as an offshore installation manager (OIM) for more than 33 years in the Greater Ekofisk Area. 


Kristensen recalls that he was a committed young man in the early 1970s – an open, curious and plain-speaking person who was not afraid to criticise health, safety and environmental (HSE) conditions. 

The working style he encountered offshore suited him well, ready as he was to speak his mind. “I’ve undoubtedly been a loud-mouth. I’m used to having zealous people in the Family With grand-parents and a father who served as mayors, which is perhaps why I don’t quite know when to keep quiet.” 

Thinking back to working conditions when he started in petroleum industry, he recalls living on Gulftide, Norway’s first production facility, and says it was fascinating. 

“This was an old jack-up rig, with the helideck installed on planks. We were four to a cabin, and things were pretty shabby. Primitive conditions prevailed, to put it mildly.” 

The workplace at the time was characterised by the presence of the Americans, and confusions frequently arose between them and those who were not particularly good at English. 

“It was very unusual,” reflects Kristensen. “We were trained up by the Americans, of course – they were the ones who knew about this business. There were a lot of misunderstandings among the Norwegians, people who pretended to understand the messages they were given about what jobs to do. Both serious and funny situations occured. Those of us who’d been to sea undoubtedly had an advantage in that we knew the language a bit better. The rest were fishermen and smallholders and ordinary people from the Districts in Western Norway who didn’t speak much English. Offshore terminology wasn’t easy for people who didn’t have the language.” 

He quickly grasped the ethos in this working environment. “The Americans often only gave you one chance. If you showed that you could cope with your job, you won trust, new opportunities and more responsibility.” 

Given his background in the Norwegian merchant marine, however, Kristensen reacted negatively to a number of the conditions which prevailed at the time. “I was one of the youngest then, and that wasn’t always easy because there were a number of older and more experienced people who felt they had a ‘monopoly of brains’,” he comments. “And quite a lot were pushy. “Working conditions weren’t orderly, with proper employment contracts like I was used to from my time at sea thanks to the Norwegian Seamen’s Union – unionisation and the like.” 

He adds that he is grateful for everything he learned from the Americans, but that they at the time were not particularly keen on unions and the Norwegian concept of collaboration between employers and employees. “They thought it was enough to enter into agreements on a mantoman basis or with the company, and saw no need to organise this via trade unions.” 


Given his views, it is not surprising that he became involved at an early stage with the Ekofisk Committee by serving as secretary to Øyvind Krokvik, who was first head of this union. 

Kristensen explains that he has been committed throughout his career to involvement and worker participation and to good collaboration between unions, the safety service and management. That was particularly important during the early years of the petroleum industry on the NCS, he emphasises. His experience of union work accompanied him into various senior posts on Ekofisk. 

With a gleam in his eye, he says the following about his promotion: “Acquiring managerial responsibility early on may have had something to do with my involvement with the union. Putting in place systems for worker participation and collaboration was particularly important in the early years of Norway’s offshore industry. 

“I played a part in establishing the parameters which govern industrial relations out on the field today, with unions and the safety delegate service.

I became the country’s youngest OIM at the age of 24, and served as a manager out there for 41 years.

They may have thought ‘he’s more trouble than we need, so we’ll just promote him up and then be quit him.” 

Kristensen reports that he has been preoccupied throughout his managerial career with ensuring that “things are genuine” – that a manager must understand and personally be part of “the home team”. He explains that as the ability to understand a position from the standpoint of the various parties involved, and adds that he has thrived offshore with a living and working community. This he defines as one “where you get close to people, where everyone is seen and heard, and where they understand that they play an important role in reaching a common goal”.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Pionèr, ONS 2018: 8. 

It did not take him long to learn how to adjust his management style to the offshore environment, but admits that this approach has developed over the years. The leadership culture which dominated on the platforms during the early years undoubtedly influenced me a bit. I was probably very inflexible and saw things in black-and-white, but have become more judicious and considered over time. 

“Nobody left my office earlier in any doubt about what I meant. I thought that saved a lot of time. But I can’t have been too bad, or I wouldn’t have held down the job for so long.” 


Kristensen’s long service makes him unique on Ekofisk, and he has thought a lot about management. His expressed strategy has been to get people on side over HSE through commitment and integrity – and without any “second agenda”. 

“Working in the Ekofisk Complex with 600-700 people is an unusual experience,” he observes. “I held the same job as the man in charge for 20 years. “That means you’re ‘on stage’ the whole time, and attend 10-12 HSE meetings every week. You’ve got to get people committed, drive a doctrine and sell a message. This involves getting what people have to concentrate on implanted in their hearts and minds so they can contribute to their own safety and that of others, he explains. 

“You must be genuine, and your own integrity must be order. You have to build trust, and not least display respect for your audience.” 

“What’s been a powerful help for me is that I’m on the home team. I’ve been a skilled worker myself and have been through most things.” 

Kristensen emphasises several times that he regarded the unions, their elected officers and the safety delegates as a resource in this work. 

“The tripartite collaboration pursued in the petroleum industry between government, companies and unions functions very well,” he concludes.  “This is about informing and involving people, and ensuring that decisions aren’t taken over their heads. Our company has achieved that in a positive way.” 

“The fact that Ekofisk is a mature field and ConocoPhillips is a mature company also has something to do with it. Cooperation with the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway and other authorities is also very good.” 

Kristensen denies that union-management collaboration has become more strained during the downturns experienced by the petroleum industry. “Strained and strained – we must adjust to external conditions and try to protect the jobs needed to safeguard the industry. But nobody’s ever been made redundant by this company. That’s worthy of respect.

Downsizing has been solved with severance packages. People have often been given early retirement. From that perspective, it’s been a privilege to work for an operator company.” 


After almost 46 years with the company, Kristensen’s commitment to continuous improvement, good safety and high production regularity is as strong as ever. Recognising that substantial progress has been made in the HSE area over the years he has worked in the industry, he affirms that this issue is closest to his heart. 

“We’ve staked out the path as we’ve advanced. We don’t accept incidents and accidents. We take a completely different approach to risk today. Accidents which do occur are used for all they’re worth in an effort to say to ourselves: ‘this has actually happened, but it’s our duty to learn from it’.” 

Kristensen has personally experienced accidents and injuries at close hand, and thereby knows the importance of preventive safety work to protect people, the environment and equipment. 

He will never forget some incidents – and immediately mentions the Alexander L Kielland disaster in 1980 With 123 casualties. An article in local daily Stavanger Aftenblad as recently as 2012, with photos of all those who have died on duty on the NCS since 1966, made a big impression on him. 

Britain’s Piper Alpha explosion in 1988, when 169 people were killed, is another major incident he recalls. His conclusion is that the petroleum sector has not been a Promised Land for all. 

The former OIM proudly mentions a number of HSE improvements which have partly been the result of technological advances in the industry during his time. But he warns about hazards which still exist, such as vessels drifting out of control. A well-known incident on New Year’s Eve in 2015 made a particularly strong impression on him. 

A 150000 tons, unmanned barge had come loose and was threatening to collide with installations on Ekofisk. Several hundred workers from this field and neighbouring Valhall were flown to safety and production was shut down. The barge passed the platforms at a distance of about one nautical mile, but Kristensen found the actual incident and the threat it posed frightening. 

“Drifting vessels which come loose in rough weather, which can get pretty challenging out there, are perhaps the biggest hazard we now face. Luckily we have good procedures to handle such challenges.” 


Such incidents and near-misses are regarded by Kristensen as a reminder that the petroleum industry is under an obligation to learn the necessary lessons. He points to the potential for learning from other industries, and emphasises the good collaboration which prevails across the company. Mechanical handling provides a good example, he says. 

“Things can go terribly wrong. After fatal accidents in the 2000s, we established a work group which held monthly meetings. I took part as technical manager for these facilities. We involved everyone in the logistics chain on land, at the base and on the platforms. That attracted so much attention and such great improvements that we’ve now managed to prevent virtually all undesirable conditions in this area.” 

Despite good systems and routines, colleagues on the installations are Kristensen’s most important reminder of the responsibility he has had as an OIM on Ekofisk. 

“Experiences from my early years meant that I have become particularly attentive to HSE – and I was involved in quite a lot, of course. But this mostly relates to the individual who gets injured on your watch and on your shift – in other words, the people you work with. They stood on the drill floor and worked so that the sparks flew around their ears. Having only two-three fingers used to confer ‘status’. 

He notes that improvements have a lot to do with technological progress. Much risk has been eliminated by automating a great deal of the work which used to be done manually. 

“But we still have more than enough opportunities to injure ourselves. This has a lot to do with awareness – being present in the real world, making sure you’re focused. That’s actually expected for 12 hours at a time.” 

A respectful attitude to his big responsibilities and duties was maintained by Kristensen to his last working day. “Emergency preparedness is like being at war – you do what you’re told. But you feel it. Although we’ve trained so long at this, you’re still conscious of being responsible for several hundred lives. Taking a wrong decision could … You must act on the basis of the information you’ve got, not what you know many months later. When you tackle it, however, you get a sense of mastery at solving the problem together with an outstanding emergency response organisation on land. Ultimately, though, you’re the skipper on your own ship.” 

Time to reflect

Kristensen has finally retired from ConocoPhillips, giving him time to reflect over his own commitment and lifestyle offshore as it affected him and his family. 

“For my own part, I must say that it’s had a price,” he admits. “I couldn’t get involved in politics or organisations, for example. I was only at home half of the time. I followed up the kids when I was at home, of course, but never felt I could be active in associations and so on, contribute the way I’d have liked. 

He has found the transition to retirement unaccustomed in many ways. “Simply remembering that I’m not going offshore is a big change, for example. I had to deal with so many challenges right up to my last day at work that it’s been impossible to prepare anything. I ought to have thought about and planned retirement a bit better, of course, but I’ll undoubtedly find something to do when I want to.” 

Published 21. October 2019   •   Updated 25. October 2019
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Ekofisk 2/4 VC

person Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Injection water from subsea installation Ekofisk VC (Victor Charlie) began to be pumped down well VC-03 on 28 September 2018. Well number two came on line just under a week later. 
Kjappe fakta:
  • Plan for development and operation (PDO) was approved by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy on 7 September 2017.
  • Part of Ekofisk South
  • Installed September 2017
  • On stream September 2018
  • Gets electric power and signals from Ekofisk 2/4 M
  • Also called "Victor Charlie"
— Illustration of Ekofisk 2/4 VC (Victor Charlie). Illustration: ConocoPhillips
© Norsk Oljemuseum

The aim of this facility – an extension to the Ekofisk South project – was to increase waterflooding on the southern flank of the Ekofisk reservoir in order to maintain oil and gas production. 

An amended plan for development and operation (PDO) of Ekofisk South was approved by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy on 7 September 2017. 

This involved installing a new seabed template with four water injection wells, and represented a continuation of the well-established Ekofisk production strategy based on waterflooding.[REMOVE]Fotnote: 

The template was installed in September 2017, with a technical solution similar to that used on the seabed facilities already installed – Ekofisk 2/4 VA and 2/4 VB.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Pionér, no 2, ConocoPhillips, 2018.

In addition to the structure itself, including wellheads and Xmas trees, the installation comprised control modules with umbilicals connected to the existing waterflooding system. 

The 2/4 VC facility receives injection water from Eldfisk 2/7 E, while power and control signals come from Ekofisk 2/4 M. It is run from the Ekofisk 2/4 K control room. 

When fully developed, overall injection capacity for this subsea installation will be 80 000 barrels per day through the four wells. 

The water pipeline and umbilical to 2/4 VB were extended to 2/4 VC. Well operations on the latter began on 24 May 2018 with a view to starting injection before the end of the year. 

Published 15. October 2019   •   Updated 15. October 2019
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