Tuesday, 10 May 2011

John Lawrie: Decommissioning just got greener

The following is a copy of a recent interview given by environmental director Ray Grant to the DecomWorld website.

Executive Viewpoint

DecomWorld speaks to Ray Grant, Environmental Director at John Lawrie, about how the metal reprocessing and environmental services company is cornering the piece small and subsea areas of the North Sea's decommissioning market, and how its new 'concentrate and contain' solution for handling NORM will revolutionise hazardous waste treatment.

Interview by Rikki Stancich

As the North Sea oil and gas decommissioning market gathers momentum, John Lawrie Group, the largest metal recycler and exporter of processed scrap metal in the North and North-east of Scotland, is not sitting idle. The company has chanelled investment into its facilities' capability for processing and recycling redundant subsea materials including flexible risers, flowlines, and umbilicals.

No stranger to ofshore oil and gas, John Lawrie has already successfully carried out a number of decommissioning projects. Now, with strategically located SEPA licensed waste treatment facilities close to quaysides, it is ideally placed to offer a suite of decommissioning services to the oil and gas market that deliver best-in-class compliance on sustainable waste management.

DecomWorld catches up with John Lawrie's environmental director Ray Grant to learn more about how operators can benefit from its services.


DecomWorld: The John Lawrie Group has been developing its capability to recycle redundant subsea materials. To what extent will this address the existing shortage of onshore facilities to handle recycling these materials?

Ray Grant: The existing shortage of onshore decommissioning facilities is primarily for jackets and topsides which require very large specialist quayside facilities with deep water berths to receive them. However, the type of materials we are currently focused on processing are in the subsea and ‘piece small’ areas of the decommissioning market.

These relatively smaller items can be received through most North and Northeast ports, thereby allowing greater flexibility to our clients, as we’re not tied to any particular location. This can involve the unreeling and cutting up of risers, flowlines and umbilicals, and the downsizing and cutting up of steel structures which can typically range from around 50 tonnes to 500 tonnes.

Our initial objective is to reduce the items either in size and/or weight at the quayside to enable the cut pieces to be loaded onto our articulated vehicles and transported to one of our SEPA licenced treatment facilities for next stage processing, recovery and recycling.

Our facilities throughout Scotland (Aberdeen, Montrose and Evanton near Invergordon) have the combined capacity to receive and process up to 200,000 tonnes per annum, so we have ample capacity to cope with current and projected demand in the piece small market for the foreseeable future.

DecomWorld: What portion of these materials can be recycled?

Ray Grant: The short answer is: almost everything. As we have developed our skills in the recovery of the various items, we have seen, and continue to see, steadily increasing recycling percentages being recorded. The key to good recycling lies in the ability to separate out the various component parts, thereby removing any cross contamination which would otherwise result in the recovered ‘product’ being unsuitable for recycling.

A good example of this is in flexible Risers and Flowlines, which are made up of a number of metallic and non metallic layers, where we are now recovering and recycling up to 100%. We achieve this by separating out the various layers (typically between 6-8) through a largely mechanical process into their constituent parts.

The recovered metal is then processed on our site by means of a fixed shear and made ready for shipping to steel mills in Europe. Our fixed shear in Aberdeen is the largest in the UK, and represents a £3m pound investment. The plastic content, which initially went to landfill, is now passed on to licenced processors who granulate it into feedstock for new plastic products.

Umbilicals pose a bit more of a challenge as they do not separate out very easily. However, by processing these through our fully automated fragmentiser/shredder at our Montrose site, this enables us to separate and recover the various metallic content for recycling.

When it comes to large protection structures or manifolds, these are generally of all steel construction and can relatively easily be reduced in size and recycled 100%.

Concrete mattresses can also be successfully recycled. The concrete can be crushed using conventional stone crushing equipment and used as sub base material, with only the nylon tie rope being land-filled, resulting in >90% recycling.

DecomWorld: What is the incentive for operators to recycle where possible? (Is there any existing or pending legislation in place requiring operators to recycle subsea materials and topsides?)

Ray Grant: All operators are keen to recycle as much as is practically possible and exercise a ‘Duty of Care’. Under the Petroleum Act 1998, operators have to submit their decommissioning plans to DECC (Dept of Energy & Climate Change) for approval. They have to demonstrate that they have carried out a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment, are taking all possible measures to comply with good waste management practice, and applied the waste hierarchy of reduce, reuse and recycle, and minimise landfill.

At the end of the decommissioning programme, they have to complete an Environmental Report and forward it to DECC. To assist our clients, we provide them with our own detailed Environmental Report listing all the various items received, the weight of each, how they were processed, the percentages of the various recovered materials and their ultimate destiny.

Apart from a legislative requirement, all operators have their own ‘Environmental Management Systems’ in place and are always keen to contribute towards their own reuse and recycling environmental policies and objectives, and adopt environmentally acceptable and sustainable solutions, with disposal to landfill as a last resort.

Of course, there is also a financial incentive for operators to recover and recycle. The value recovered from the recycled materials is passed onto the client and offsets the costs associated with the handling, transporting, processing and management of the work. So it definitely pays to recycle.

DecomWorld: At what point does John Lawrie become engaged in the process – does it offer offshore services, or does it handle the kit as it comes onshore?

Ray Grant: All of our services are onshore and we take over the minute the material hits the quayside. However, it’s important that we get involved at an early stage in the planning process.

Most clients tend to involve us early as possible in the planning stage, usually at the same time they are looking to appoint their offshore recovery contractor. It’s important that we have good communication with the offshore recovery contractor, as well as the client, so we know what will be expected from us.

For example, the preferred port location; whether the risers or umbilicals will be on reels and require cutting; the weight and size of heavy structures such as manifolds or protection structures, which may have to be downsized to enable transportation; and the type of mobile plant and equipment we will require to have available.

DecomWorld: John Lawrie is also working on providing an alternative - more environmentally sound - solution for processing normally occurring radioactive material (NORM). Can you provide more details of this?

Ray Grant: We are progressing through a JV company (NORM Solutions Limited) a new NORM decontamination and disposal facility in Aberdeen, which will be operational later this year. A site has been secured and we are about to commence with site development work and installation of bespoke process equipment.

The entire process will be carried out in enclosed controlled conditions with no discharges to atmosphere or any marine environment, including drainage systems (“concentrate and contain” as against “dilute and disperse”). This exciting development will provide oil and gas NORM producers with an environmentally acceptable and sustainable solution, and a long awaited alternative service.

DecomWorld: How is John Lawrie positioned to take advantage of the growing North Sea decommissioning market?

Ray Grant: John Lawrie’s existing licenced facilities throughout the North and Northeast of Scotland are well located to service the growing decommissioning market.

We are strategically located close to harbours with whom we have developed excellent working relationships over a number of years exporting our processed scrap, and look to build on our decommissioning capability.

We have developed the skills and competences to handle and process decommissioning materials, and have a loyal and experienced team.

We have already invested heavily (>£4m in last 3 years) in both fixed and mobile plant and equipment, and are currently planning major upgrades to our facilities.

Looking to the future, we are currently working with a port operator, which is currently undergoing significant quayside upgrading and is expected to be operational from the summer of 2011. This will enable us to receive much larger structures as demand grows and decommissioning ramps up.

Reproduced with the kind permission of DecomWorld. To see the interview on the DecomWorld website visit http://social.decomworld.com/qa/john-lawrie-decommissioning-just-got-greener.

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