• An oil platform in rough seas


Development of a strategic framework for the comparative assessment of pipeline decommissioning options: optimising environment and fishing interests

Numerous pipelines have been installed in the North Sea to support offshore oil and gas extraction. Pipeline decommissioning options include full and partial removal, as well as in situ decommissioning, either with or without intervention.

The choice of decommissioning strategy will have social, economic and safety implications for commercial fisheries, according to the type and intensity of fishing in the vicinity of each pipeline. Assessing the impacts of decommissioning strategies on fisheries, and mitigation options, is an essential step in the decommissioning consenting process.  It is important that fisheries-impact-assessments employ the best available data, which are capable of resolving the fine-scale spatial patterns that are known to exist in pipeline-fishing overlaps.

The output from PipeFish are GIS layers which provide high-resolution fishing intensity data for individual pipeline sections. The layers were created from fishing data extracted from the Vessel Monitoring System for UK vessels operating mobile demersal gear between 2007 – 2015. The layers are freely available to download via the Scottish Government’s National Marine Plan Interactive. The layers provide a common evidence-base for industry, regulators and stakeholders to assess the impacts of different decommissioning options to commercial fisheries during the decommissioning process.

PipeFish covers two of the five OSPAR areas: the Greater North Sea and the Celtic Seas.

SAMS' role in PipeFish was to deliver the GIS and statistical analysis of data sets provided by regulators.  SAMS then placed that analysis into an industry context and made derived data sets available to industry and regulators for their use in optimizing decommissioning options in relation to pipelines and fishing interests.