Data challenges and opportunities for environmental management of North Sea oil and gas decommissioning in an era of blue growth

Fiona Murray* (Corresponding Author), Katherine Needham, Kate Gormley, Sally Rouse, Joop W.P. Coolen, David Billett, Jennifer Dannheim, Silvana N.R. Birchenough, Kieran Hyder, Richard Heard, Joseph S. Ferris, Jan M. Holstein, Lea Anne Henry, Oonagh McMeel, Jan Bart Calewaert, J. Murray Roberts (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


Maritime industries routinely collect critical environmental data needed for sustainable management of marine ecosystems, supporting both the blue economy and future growth. Collating this information would provide a valuable resource for all stakeholders. For the North Sea, the oil and gas industry has been a dominant presence for over 50 years that has contributed to a wealth of knowledge about the environment. As the industry begins to decommission its offshore structures, this information will be critical for avoiding duplication of effort in data collection and ensuring best environmental management of offshore activities. This paper summarises the outcomes of a Blue Growth Data Challenge Workshop held in 2017 with participants from: the oil and gas industry; the key UK regulatory and management bodies for oil and gas decommissioning; open access data facilitators; and academic and research institutes. Here, environmental data collection and archiving by oil and gas operators in the North Sea are described, alongside how this compares to other offshore industries; what the barriers and opportunities surrounding environmental data sharing are; and how wider data sharing from offshore industries could be achieved. Five primary barriers to data sharing were identified: 1) Incentives, 2) Risk Perception, 3) Working Cultures, 4) Financial Models, and 5) Data Ownership. Active and transparent communication and collaboration between stakeholders including industry, regulatory bodies, data portals and academic institutions will be key to unlocking the data that will be critical to informing responsible decommissioning decisions for offshore oil and gas structures in the North Sea.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-138
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Policy
Early online date7 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements: The Blue Growth Data Workshop was organised by the University of Edinburgh through the INSITE Data Initiative funded by the INSITE (INfluence of man-made Structures In the Ecosystem, research programme. The authors thank participants from BP, British Geological Survey, Gardline, DeepTek, theDataLab, Hartley Anderson, Marine Scotland Science, Heriot-Watt University, BMT Cordah, Shell, BEIS OPRED and Marathon Oil for their contributions. INSITE follows the 2012 Oil and Gas UK led “Decommissioning Baseline Study” joint industry project that identified data gaps in our understanding in the influence of man-made structures on the ecology of the North Sea. J. Murray Roberts and Katherine Needham acknowledge further support from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement No. 678760 (ATLAS). David Billett was supported by funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 689518 (MERCES: Marine Ecosystem Restoration in Changing European Seas). Lea-Anne Henry was supported by the INSITE Project “Appraisal of Network Connectivity between North Sea subsea oil and gas platforms”. Kieran Hyder was supported by INSITE project “Assessing the ecological connectivity between man-made structures in the North Sea”. Silvana Birchenough was supported by the INSITE project “Understanding the influence of man-made structures on the ecosystem functions of the North Sea and the European Union's Horizon 2020 Project COLUMBUS (652690) ”Knowledge Transfer for Blue Growth”. This output reflects only the authors’ views and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.


  • Blue economy
  • Decommissioning
  • Environmental assessment
  • Offshore energy
  • Open access
  • ROV survey


Dive into the research topics of 'Data challenges and opportunities for environmental management of North Sea oil and gas decommissioning in an era of blue growth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this