Millions of pounds worth of work dismantling redundant gas rigs and structures in the Southern North Sea will be taking place over the next few years, an energy body predicts.

Trade organisation Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) has published a report showing the extent of decommissioning work taking place around the UK coast.

While more than three quarters is in the oil-centred northern North Sea and central North Sea, activity is also happening off the East Anglian coast - where multiple pockets of natural gas are found.

Decommissioning activity in the Southern North Sea (SNS) dropped in the southern area because of "extensive activities at several major assets done last year", said OEUK.

East Anglian Daily Times:

The remaining works relate to well decommissioning and topsides or substructure removals, it added.

Overall, more than 2,000 North Sea wells involved in oil and gas extraction are due to be decommissioned at a cost of around £20bn over the next decade, according to its Decommissioning Insight report.

Of this, more than £3bn worth of the work will centre around the Southern North Sea and Irish Sea.

More than 75% of the total spend will be in the central North Sea - stretching from Yorkshire to the northern tip of Scotland -  and the northern North Sea - covering an area north of Scotland and east of Shetland and Orkney.

The study found UK decommissioning is expanding fast and predicts a surge in activity over the next three to four years as it set out its 10-year forecast.

"While the decommissioning sector successfully navigated the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and commodity price collapse, new challenges arose with Putin’s war in Ukraine, the UK cost of living crisis and the Energy Profits Levy. Some of those challenges remain and the decommissioning industry is already rallying to overcome them and build on the successes of the growing sector," it said.

"Extensive works in emissions reduction during operations, repurposing existing infrastructure for CO2 storage, identifying reuse opportunities during onshore disposal and supporting the offshore wind industry with designing for decommissioning are all setting up the sector with work for decades to come."

Last year, spending on decommissioning off the UK rose by almost a fifth to £1.273bn - and is likely to rise significantly this year - possibly reaching £2bn, said OEUK.

OEUK decommissioning manager Ricky Thomson said the decommissioning sector was "snowballing" and would continue to grow for years to come.

East Anglian Daily Times:

"But this poses a challenge as well as an opportunity," he warned. "The growth of renewables and demand for decommissioning services and expertise will create increasing pressure for resources. 

"This is a great problem to have and it’s vital this opportunity is properly managed across the sector so that UK firms can capture the lion’s share of this £20bn opportunity. 

"With the right support from government and action from the industry, the UK could make major gains from decommissioning, as well as retain thousands of jobs for this growing sector."