An oil rig that environmentalists prevented from being scrapped at sea because of its threat to marine life may be reincarnated as a fish farm - or it may still be put out to sea. Shell announced 11 possible ways on Monday of disposing of the giant Brent Spar platform, including turning it into a fish farm, a maritime training center or a dock gate. But it would not count out a disposal at sea.
The oil company was forced to tow the rig to a Norwegian fjord after environmentalist protesters succeeded in thwarting plans to dispose of it at sea in June 1995.''There are no preconceived ideas. We will look at the wide range of options,'' said Eric Faulds, decommissioning manager of Shell Expo, at a news conference in London. ''The proposals now to be developed represent the best of those we were offered.''
Shell will now pay 1.5 million pounds ($2.4 million) to six international consortia, from Britain, France, Germany, Holland and Norway to develop the proposals into detailed plans within four months.
The final proposals will be compared with deep-sea disposal, the option originally approved by Britain, on grounds of environmental impact, technical feasibility, safety and cost. The sea disposal would have cost UK12 million pounds ($20.2 million).
A final decision is expected at the end of the year.
Shell sought alternatives to sea disposal of the Brent Spar to win over public opinion after Greenpeace activists boarded the platform in April 1995, then off northwest Scotland, in protest at plans to sink the rig in the North Sea.
A boycott of Shell gas stations by some European motorists followed before the company put its decision on hold.
The Brent Spar platform is unique because of its size. Underneath the rig is a 93-meter-deep (305-foot) cylindrical loading buoy capable of holding 300,000 barrels of oil.
There were a total of 11 proposals involved in schemes proposed by the six consortia.
The Norwegian firm, Kvaerner Stolt Seaway Alliance, proposed using sections of the cylinder as a fish farm, as a floating dock gate or as the base for a harbor extension. It also suggested using the top of the rig as a maritime training center.
Another proposal includes using parts of the rig for coastal strengthening schemes in eastern England. In the plan, Brent Spar's hull would be cut up, filled with sand and lined up alongside the coast.
That plan, by Scottish company AMEC, would be less hazardous than the current program of coastal strengthening using rocks, which Shell said had lead to the deaths of three workers.
Three companies proposed methods for scrapping the rig onshore.
Shell has claimed that the deep-sea disposal method is no more damaging than plans to cut up the platform on land.
The point was less the immediate impact and more the precedent that scrapping the rig at sea would set, said a spokesman for Greenpeace.