Coast was clear for ‘one stop shop’

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PORTS REVIEW 2021

IT MAY BE the new kid on the block but CessCon Decom is a company built upon many years of experience… and it’s already making a name for itself in the burgeoning world of decommissioning.

Essentially, CessCon provides the oil and gas sector with a full decommissioning lifecycle service. This involves everything from the initial offshore surveys and preparations for removal, decontamination and working with heavy-lift contractors for the physical removal to dealing with the onshore dismantling and recycling of the platforms.

This makes CessCon the only full-service decommissioning company in the UK and one of only two ‘one stop shops’ in the whole of Europe, with the other based in Norway.

“In fact, it all began for us working for that company in Norway,” says Chief Executive Lee Hanlon, “when myself and Frank Bråten, CessCon’s Projects and Operations Director, were working together as consultants.

“We were both employed as consultants and we felt we could replicate something similar ourselves. So we established CessCon in Norway in October, 2016, we brought it to market in April, 2017, and won our first contract in Norway that May. This meant we had to go from just three personnel to 38 within one month!”

Lee points out the company’s adoption of the offshore health and safety and operations methodology to an onshore environment has been an industry gamechanger. And relocating back to Scotland, Lee describes as a ‘land grab’.

“If you look at decommissioning companies all over the world, they mostly begin at the very start of the supply chain. So that’s effectively plugging and abandonment of the oil wells followed by the preparation of the platform topsides and the jackets for removal, with onshore disposal as the last piece.

“We thought, well, you can do everything offshore but unless there is a yard to take these platforms you’re stuck – so let’s jump into that end and work backwards. So we’ve done a land grab by securing Hunterston PARC on the West coast of Scotland, then shortly after The Energy Park Fife on the east coast.”

This decommissioning facility in Methil offers access to 345 metres of quayside with a water depth between 4.9m and 9m (mean), and up to 30,000m2 of hard standing laydown area. This allows CessCon to accommodate multiple substantial projects in parallel.

It was awarded its first contract in December 2020 for the dismantlement and recycling of Spirit Energy’s Morecambe Bay DP3 and DP4 facilities in the East Irish Sea by Allseas, a project that will include the processing of more than 23,000 tonnes of material. The rapid success story of CessCon is all the more remarkable when set against the backdrop of a pandemic that has affected so many UK businesses.

“Yes, we’ve been okay,” says Lee. “When it comes to the operations at the moment we’re in the desktop engineering phase, so the team have been able to work very effectively from home.

“We also managed to get the yard development finished just before the last lockdown.

“We’ve had a little bit of a slide in the program with one-way systems and social distancing rules in place but it’s been fine – we’ve dodged that bullet!”

CessCon may have dodged a bullet in successfully dealing with the pandemic restrictions but at the same time they’ve become a big target for companies requiring an onshore decommissioning service who historically would have been looking to Norway.

“Many platforms have been taken to Norway because they’re several years ahead of the game when it comes to decommissioning – they have a yard similar to ours that’s been operational for the past 10 years. There have been a very limited number of similar facilities in the UK until the past five years. There’s now one in Lerwick, one in Teesside and one in Great Yarmouth.

“However the markets have been crying out for a new, purpose-built, decommissioning-focused yard and that’s exactly what we’ve provided at Methil.” Not only has CessCon provided a game changing facility it also puts health and safety right at the heart of its operations.

“We’ve devised a new way of working – a strategy that we’ve coined ‘offshore onshore’. If anyone walks into our yard, it’s effectively the same as being on an offshore platform in terms of health and safety, risk assessments, work protocols, and wearing personal protective equipment. It’s exactly the same.”

Lee underlines CessCon is not a demolition company. “We’re strong on that. We’ve nothing against demolition companies but typically when you hear the word demolition you think of a flat cap and a hammer and that’s completely not what we do.

“Our engineering process is effectively the exact same as what you would do to build a new rig in a yard – we just do it in reverse. There are typically six months of engineering upfront to do before anything even gets to the yard. There are work packs created, job cards, instruction manuals … every single task is documented, planned, scheduled and engineered.”

Eco-awareness is also a top priority and, in addition to the offshore onshore aspect, CessCon has designed its yards to enable zero emissions to the ground.

“All produced fluids are collected and we’ve designed and created our own water treatment plant. The discharge water is so clean we can put it back into the Forth and we are one of the only companies to have a permit to do that.

“We also aim to achieve a minimum of 98 per cent reuse and recycling of a platform when it comes into the yard.

“Our primary focus is the circular economy, so when would look at a platform we identify as much as possible for reuse into the oil & gas and alternative industries – refurbishing or remanufacture of valves or a pumps, for example. In effect, our primary focus is to reintroduce everything we can back into the supply chain or modify it so it can be used in alternative industries.

“Anything we can’t find a home for, we recycle in the form of steel and various exotic metals as well. “This will move through the supply chain in Central Scotland and ultimately to Europe. We have very few smelters in the UK so the material goes to Europe for smelting then it goes back into the supply chain and that steel will come back to the UK in some form.”

Despite the potential challenges through 2021 and beyond, Lee is happy to report that potential new work is coming in fast.

“We’re getting more and more invitations to tender on a weekly basis,” he notes, “so I think we potentially have live tenders today for 15 to 20 platforms.”

With such a vibrant and sustained work stream, one thing is certain: we’re going to be hearing a lot more about the new kid on the block. 

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