Decommissioning is traditionally the last step in the lifetime of an energy asset. After the planning, construction and operation of the asset, decommissioning entails restoring an energy site to its original state or as close to that state as is desirable given the merits of the various options for dealing with the energy asset. The term ‘decommissioning’’, however, lacks a codified legal definition. Generally, the term is interpreted as encompassing the entire process dealing with the removal or re-use of an asset, the disposal of the removed asset or parts thereof and the restoration of the energy site. In terms of terminology, In terms of terminology, it is, moreover, important to note that instead of ‘decommissioning’ the terms ‘abandonment’ and ‘abandonment and removal’ are used in academic literature and by the industry. In more recent years, however, decommissioning has become the preferred term.
From a regulatory perspective, the rules in place for decommissioning differ per type of energy asset, per location and per jurisdiction. The focus of this chapter will be on the assets used for the production of hydrocarbons, such as platforms, wells, cables and pipelines, in the offshore areas of the Netherlands. This issue is currently highly topical. Given the fact that the oil and gas reservoirs located in the Netherlands are maturing, most of the hydrocarbon production assets are foreseen to reach the end of their economic lifetime in the upcoming two decades. Projections show that this may lead to the decommissioning of approximately 150 platforms, over 3,000 km of pipeline and more than 600 wells located on the Dutch Continental Shelf. Given the financial and environmental implications of decommissioning, these projections warrant a closer analysis of the Dutch legal framework for decommissioning offshore.
This chapter will evolve in three steps. The first part will briefly elaborate on the international legal regime in place with regard to decommissioning. Subsequently, part two will elaborate on the Dutch legal regime for decommissioning. Finally, the last part of the chapter will briefly look at re-use as a form of decommissioning as this concept is gaining momentum in the Netherlands.