brent delta topside

Brent Delta: a North Sea giant gives up its secrets

After decades of supplying Europe with energy, the 24,000-tonne topside of the Brent Delta oil and gas platform came in from the North Sea. Once in the dock at Hartlepool, on England's north-east coast, workers began dismantling it for recycling. And they found some surprises…including three guitars and a ukulele.

By Adam Lusher in Hartlepool, UK, on Jul 19, 2019

Brent Delta dismantled
Many questioned whether it was possible to recycle 97 per cent of the 24,000-tonne structure

Old and young, teachers and schoolchildren, former rig workers or the simply curious.  On a specially built quayside in a town steeped in the shipbuilding pride of north-east England, they all came to marvel. 

Above them loomed the 24,000-tonne, 130-metre-high steel structure of Brent Delta, delivered from the storms of the North Sea to dry land, to serve a new, and once more useful, purpose.

After decades of producing oil and gas to fuel Europe's homes and businesses, "the Delta" was to be recycled - virtually every last scrap of it.

Many questioned whether it could be done.

The aim was to recycle almost all the Delta's topside - the part that is visible above the sea - including its contents. 

That meant dismantling and removing vast amounts of steel and other materials, as well as the fixtures, fittings and furnishings that had made this industrial monument home to thousands of workers over many years. 

It included a 756-tonne drilling derrick, a 23-metre-wide helipad, some 1.5 tonnes of tinned food, more than a tonne of discarded bedding - and a few surprises. 

"Three acoustic guitars and a ukulele fell from the ceiling voids," says Paul Corr, health and safety officer for Able UK, the company responsible for the recycling project.

"Instead of trying to squeeze a guitar into your locker, it was probably easier to lift up a ceiling panel and store it there."

The amazing Brent Bravo lift

Title:  ‘There We Go’ – Lifting 25,000 tonnes in 9 seconds | Brent Bravo Lift

Duration: 11:46 minutes

Description:

This video describes the single-lift removal of the Brent Bravo platform topside, including the transport, towing, dismantlement and recycling of the topside.

Brent Bravo Lift MASTER (youtube) Transcript

[Background music plays]

The Sound of Shell orchestral adaptation plays as an intro, and adaptations of The Sound of Shell continue to play throughout the video.

[William Lindsay]

40 years ago, no one really thought about how they were going to be dismantled.

[Video footage]

We open on close-up aerial footage of the ocean as the shot tracks over the face of the waters.

[Voiceover]

After decades of service, the four Brent Field platforms are being decommissioned.

[Video footage]

The shot rapidly tilts up to a bird’s eye view of one of the concrete-legged Brent platforms in deep water, below a cloudy blue sky. The shot slowly zooms in, then we cut to a closer view of the topside, then back to a wider view of the platform.

[Kenny Thomson]

We got NASA to come and give us a hand, and they were blown away with what we were doing.

[Video footage]

High angle reverse view footage of an operator in a control room, seated in front of a bank of screens, his left hand on a joystick as he watches the footage and data displaying on screens facing him. This cuts to an extreme close-up in reverse view of a man watching footage displayed on one of the control room’s screens. Then we see aerial footage of a yellow inspection vehicle being lowered into the water. Next, close-up of Kenny Thomson speaking to an off-camera interviewer; in the background, we see the ocean and a deepwater platform topside is partially visible at frame-left. We cut back to high angle reverse view footage of an operator in a control room, seated in front of a bank of screens, his hands operating controls as he watches the footage and data displaying on the screens.

[Bethan Vasey]

We needed to be able to lift the platform up from underneath. It was never designed to be lifted in that manner.

[Video footage]

Close-up footage of Bethan Vasey speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against a blurred background. Next, we rapidly pull back on low-angle panning footage of the underside of a platform topside. Then we see high-angle close-up footage of waves pounding against concrete platform legs, followed by wide angle footage of the Brent Delta platform in deepwater below blue skies.

[Voiceover]

In 2017, Shell set a world record when Brent Delta was lifted intact…

[Video footage]

Panning bird’s eye view of the Brent Delta platform in deep water below cloudy blue skies. Next, we see alternating low-angle and high-angle time-lapse footage by night of the vast, twin-hulled Pioneering Spirit moving into position around the Brent Delta platform. We then see front-view wide-angle footage of the Pioneering Spirit moving through the ocean with the topside straddled aboard.

[Voiceover]

And taken away for recycling.

[Video footage]

Low angle footage of a lift system lifting the Delta platform free of its platform legs, followed by a bird’s eye view of the tops of the three platform legs protruding from calm, deep blue waters.

[Paul Corr]

Shell’s idea, which was the right idea, was just bring it in, the whole lot, as it stands.

[Video footage]

We see a bird’s eye view of the Pioneering Spirit moving through the ocean, bearing the Delta topside. Next is close-up footage of Paul Corr speaking to the off-camera interviewer; behind him, we see a pile of dismantled metal and industrial materials. Then we see time-lapse footage of the Delta platform at Able UK’s Able Seaton Port, being dismantled.

[Voiceover]

Now its Bravo’s turn

[Video footage]

Slightly panning aerial close-up of the surface deck of Brent Bravo.

[Bethan Vasey]

You’ve done it once. How are you going to do it again, and how are you going to do it better? And that’s the challenge that we’ve set to the team.

[Video footage]

We see close-up footage of an LED countdown clock, displaying days, hours, minutes and seconds. Next, we see reverse view footage of a crewmember rappelling down beneath the underside of the Bravo platform. This is followed by time-lapse side-view footage of the Bravo platform, the outer sections of the platform topside visible at frame-right while, in the background, we see the sun at the horizon and clouds racing overhead. Then we see high angle footage of Bravo crewmembers gathered in a room, mostly standing against the far wall on which a line of control panels is mounted.

[Voiceover]

So how do you turn 25,000 tonnes of steel…

[Text displays]

So how do you turn 25,000 tonnes of steel…

[Video footage]

Slightly panning wide-angle panoramic footage of a platform atop the Iron Lady barge, moving through the Seaton Channel. This cuts to a high-angle close-up of a massive metal claw holding and then dumping dismantled steel parts.

[Voiceover]

Into this?

[Text displays]

Into this?

[Video footage]

We see zooming aerial footage of an enormous pile of dismantled metal and industrial materials, then fade to black.

PART 1 Decom/Down Man

[Voiceover]

In a remote area of the North Sea, engineering history is being made.

[Text displays]

60°54’N 1°48’E

186km northeast of the Shetland Isles

[Video footage]

Bird’s-eye-view footage of a shimmering sea surface fills frame.

[Voiceover]

The discovery of the Brent oil and natural gas field in the 1970s had a crucial impact on Britain’s economy.

[Video footage]

As though projected onto a screen, we see archival footage of a small vessel moving through the ocean, and we see the faint outline of an oil platform in the distance. This is followed by wide-angle footage of the deep water platform itself, then by ever closer shots of the topside, with the waves pounding against its cement legs.

[Voiceover]

Now Brent field has come to the end of its life, Shell is rising to a new challenge – safely dismantling its four huge platforms.

[Video footage]

Reverse view footage of a crewmember looking out over the ocean to the line of Brent platforms in the distance. This cuts to extreme wide-angle footage of the four Brent platforms faintly visible as pinpoints stretched across the horizon, at which point we see cloudy blue skies meeting the dark blue ocean.

[Animated sequence]

Computer generated imagery shows a slightly zooming wide view of the four platforms alongside one another in the ocean, base structures visible beneath the surface. Light flares across the frame in a transition effect.

Interview with William Lindsay

[Title]

Shell Brent Decommissioning Project Director

[William Lindsay]

There’s three main elements of decommissioning. One is isolating the reservoir.

[Video footage]

We transition to a wide-angle side view of the Bravo topside in deep water.

[Text displays]

William Lindsay

Shell Brent Decommissioning Project Director

[William Lindsay]

And we do that, what’s called plug and abandonment. So we basically seal all of the wells so that at no point can the hydrocarbons come out of the reservoir to surface. The next element is we have to get everyone off the platforms.

[Video footage]

Medium footage of William Lindsay speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against a blurred background. This cuts to reverse view footage of two operators in a control room, seated in front of a bank of screens, their hands on controls as they watch the footage and data displaying on the screens. Next, we see a close-up of the underwater footage displayed on the screens, followed by a high angle close-up of waves pounding against the platform legs.

[Voiceover]

The final stage is dismantling, and the decision was made not to attempt this onsite but to remove the entire upper platform, the topsides, as one unit.

[Video footage]

Low angle footage of a helicopter in the air, rotor blades turning against a deep blue sky. This cuts to high-angle footage of the Pioneering Spirit moving through the ocean with the topside straddled aboard.

Interview with William Lindsay continued

[William Lindsay]

We lift the topsides and we transport them to shore, and there, we dismantle. And then, as much as possible, we try and recycle. So, on Delta, for instance, we’re managing to recycle over 97%.

[Video footage]

Medium footage of William Lindsay speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against a blurred background. Next, we see wide-angle footage of several workers at the Able Seaton Port, working with welding torches as they dismantle steel components; piles of dismantled metal can be seen in the background and foreground. We cut to a close-up of the flame of a welder’s torch being applied to a seam in a piece of metal. Next, we see an Able UK excavator moving through the yard, followed by low angle footage of a claw dumping dismantled metal parts onto a pile of dismantled metal and industrial materials. Then we pull back on aerial footage of a pile of dismantled parts.

[Voiceover]

The whole Bravo lift has been streamlined to give a 70% reduction in preparation work.

[Text displays]

70% reduction   

[Video footage]

Wide-angle side view of the Bravo topside in deep water

Interview with Bethan Vasey

[Title]

Shell Brent Decommissioning Project Manager

[Text displays]

Bethan Vasey

Shell Brent Decommissioning Project Manager

[Bethan Vasey]

We looked back on Delta and said okay, it was a success, but how can we do it even better, so that then, when we come to do it for Bravo, there was less work offshore. So, it was safer, it was more efficient, and it really meant that the overall removals part of the project was a step change.

[Video footage]

Close-up footage of Bethan Vasey speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against a blurred background. We cut to low angle footage of the platform topside seen against blue sky. Next, we see aerial footage of a vessel anchored alongside the platform, one crewmember standing in the visible corner of the surface deck closest to the vessel. Next, we see medium footage of a crewmember controlling a hoisted load of steel rods as it moves off the platform. This is followed by time-lapse footage of the camera moving across the steel grating floor of one of the platform’s decks.

Interview with Kenny Thomson

[Title]

Shell Brent Bravo Offshore Installation Manager

[Kenny Thomson]

We learned so much from how we lifted the Delta.

[Video footage]

Slow-motion close-up footage, then reverse view medium footage, of Kenny Thomson walking across the steel grating of the surface platform deck, seen against a backdrop of blue sea and sky.

[Text displays]

Kenny Thomson

Shell Brent Bravo Offshore Installation Manager

[Kenny Thomson]

And when we came to the Bravo, we changed tack slightly – we went for a slightly different method that we thought was better, safer.

[Video footage]

Close-up footage of Kenny speaking to the off-camera interviewer; in the background, we see the ocean and the platform topside is partially visible at frame-left.

[Voiceover]

Bravo is firmly fixed to its 150-metre-high base. A new method was developed to cut it free without installing the steel bracing used in Delta.

[Video footage]

High-angle close-up of waves pounding against a concrete platform leg. This is followed by side-view footage of the tops of the concrete platform legs attached to the underside of the platform.

Interview with Keana Jardine

[Title]

Shell Brent Bravo Operations Technician

[Keana Jardine]

To maintain both the strength and stability of the platform…

[Video footage]

Tracking aerial footage of swirling ocean waters seen through the steel grating of the platform floor. This is followed by slow motion medium footage of Keana Jardine walking across the steel grating of the surface platform deck, seen against a backdrop of blue sea and sky.

[Keana Jardine]

Shell and their partners came up with the idea of putting in shear keys.

[Text displays]

Keana Jardine

Shell Brent Bravo Operations Technician

[Video footage]

Close-up of Keana Jardine speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against the blurred background of a platform deck.

[Keana Jardine]

So this was done by core drilling into the concrete walls of the legs. This core was then removed, and a 300kg steel shear key was put in its place. Once these were all in place, a diamond wire cutter was then put in between each key and this then cut through the concrete wall.

[Animated sequence]

Computer generated imagery depicts a zoom in on the top of the platform legs, shown in white. These become partially transparent and we see the core drilling location and direction depicted in blue, then the core being removed, and the shear keys being inserted, depicted in yellow. The imagery zooms on a closer view of the shear keys at the top of one of the concrete legs as a diamond wire cutter, depicted in light blue, is inserted alongside a shear key. As the shot slowly zooms out, a light blue line encircles each platform leg at the point of the yellow shear keys, depicting the diamond cutter cutting through the concrete.

[Voiceover]

Shear keys play a vital role in securing the platform.

[Video footage]

High angle close-up of a shear key on a concrete platform leg in deep water.

Interview with Genevieve Martin

[Title]

Shell Brent HSSE Manager

[Genevieve Martin]

We’ve got the gravity downwards force that holds us, but the shear keys also help us from a sideways perspective. If we have any large waves that come through here in the height of the winter or in the spring, then those shear keys hold us in position and stop any sideways or lateral force.

[Text displays]

Genevieve Martin

Shell Brent HSSE Manager

[Video footage]

We see slightly wider-angle footage of a shear key on a concrete platform leg, followed by close-up footage of Genevieve Martin speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against the blurred background of a platform deck. Next, we see high angle footage of waves pounding against and swirling around the legs of a platform, then wide angle footage of the top of a concrete platform leg with shear keys. We cut back to high angle footage of waves pounding against the legs of a platform.

[Voiceover]

Six reinforced lifting points are also installed.

[Text displays]

6 lift points

800 tonnes        

[Video footage]

Time-lapse bird’s eye view of the Bravo platform surface deck with crane arms moving through the shot at various points while the sun moves through the sky overhead. Light flares across the frame in a transition effect.

Interview with Keana Jardine continued

[Keana Jardine]

We learned a lot from Delta. There was a lot of welding involved with that kind of project. But on Bravo, we did the concrete lift points. So this reduced a lot of the welding under deck and, yes, reduced the man hours too, so a lot less risk of someone getting injured during the work.

[Text displays]

28.04.2017 Delta lift

[Video footage]

We transition to close-up footage of a lift system lifting the Delta platform free of its platform legs. This is followed by close-up footage of Keana Jardine speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against the blurred background of a platform deck. Next, we see low-angle, tilting footage of a tall rectangular cement column, marked ‘LP5’, lift point five, followed by close-up footage of the underside of the Bravo platform in deep water, and a sign indicating ‘LP5 north face.’

[Voiceover]

Unwanted equipment is cleared away.

[Video footage]

Close-up of a note indicating ‘Decommissioned’ pegged to a piece of equipment on a lower deck of the platform.

Interview with Genevieve Martin continued

[Genevieve Martin]

We’ve been going around the whole platform bit by bit and, as you can see, the platform is looking quite bare now and lots of things have been backloaded by vessel and gone back to shore.

[Video footage]

We see panning wide angle footage of the bare interior of a lower deck of the platform. This cuts to aerial footage of a lifting hook lowering equipment onto a waiting vessel. Next, we see time-lapse bird’s-eye-view footage of loads being hoisted onto the vessel anchored alongside the platform, and we see the vessel moving off through the deep blue waters.

[Voiceover]

The crew prepares to leave, or Down Man.

[Video footage]

Low angle footage of a helicopter moving ever closer, rotor blades turning against a deep blue sky.

Interview with Kenny Thomson continued

[Kenny Thomson]

The Down Man process over the next week is all about making the platform safe and tidy in preparation for the lift, and so we get to a point where we have what we call the Golden Chopper, which is the final chopper that leaves the platform. As the chopper arrives, we will TPS, which is Total Platform Shutdown. So I’ll be in the control room, push the final button and then walk up to the chopper and get on the chopper. Then that’s us.

[Video footage]

Close-up footage of a sign attached to a slender chain strung across a section of platform, indicating ‘No Access, module cleared and secured for single lift.’ This cuts to close-up footage of Kenny Thomson speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against the blurred background of the control room. Then, we see footage of a similar ‘No Access’ sign pinned to a slender chain strung across a section of the lower deck of the Bravo platform, followed by circling high angle footage of a crewmember standing on the helideck, wearing a headset with microphone. Next is wide-angle footage of the helicopter on the helideck, rotor blades turning against the blue sky; several crewmembers are seen standing at various points around the chopper on the helideck. Again, we cut to close-up footage of Kenny speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against the blurred background of the control room. We cut to a close-up of a dial on a control panel, the sign below it indicating ‘Total Platform Shutdown.’ Next, we see slow-motion footage of crewmembers approaching and boarding the helicopter waiting on the helideck, followed by a close-up of the wheels/landing gear of the helicopter as it lifts off the helideck; in the background, we see Brent Charlie at some distance.

Interview with Genevieve Martin continued

[Genevieve Martin]

When people get on that final chopper and it flies away, that’s quite an emotional thing. We are saying goodbye to an iconic platform here.

[Video footage]

Low angle footage of the helicopter moving over the ocean, seen as a pinpoint against the blue sky. This cuts to time-lapse footage of the ocean glistening with shimmering light from the setting sun, and in the foreground, a corner of Bravo’s topside fills frame-left. Next, we see more time-lapse footage of night falling over the ocean and, in the foreground in frame-right, we see the silhouette of a section of Bravo’s topside, before fading to black.

PART 2 Lift

[Text displays]

18.06.2019

8 hours to lift

[Video footage]

Extreme wide-angle footage of two of the Brent platforms faintly visible as pinpoints at the misty horizon.

[Voiceover]

The world’s largest construction vessel, the Pioneering Spirit, arrives at Brent Field.

[Text displays]

382 metres long              

[Video footage]

Bird’s-eye-view footage of the Pioneering Spirit moving through shimmering ocean waters.

[Voiceover]

Its unique twin hull design went hand-in-hand with the development of Shell’s single lift concept.

[Text displays]

124 metres wide             

[Video footage]

We switch to time-lapse bird’s-eye-view footage of the Pioneering Spirit moving through shimmering ocean waters, approaching the shot, then slow to real speed.

Interview with William Lindsay continued

[William Lindsay]

So, as we approach the field we slow down and then we’re ballasting down at the same time, so going deeper in the water, because we’ve got fit underneath the platform.

[Video footage]

Slow-motion medium footage of William Lindsay walking along a deck of the Pioneering Spirit, then cutting to profile-view footage of William looking out the windows of the deck through binoculars. This is followed by extreme wide-angle footage of the Bravo platform in deep water at some distance while, in the foreground, we see some of the vast infrastructure comprising the Pioneering Spirit. Next, we see low-angle profile-view footage of William standing at the vessel’s windows, speaking to the off-camera interviewer.

[Voiceover]

Positioning the giant ship takes four hours.

[Video footage]

Again, we see wide-angle footage of the Bravo platform in deep water at some distance, and in the foreground, we see the twin hulls of the Pioneering Spirit, with its lifting system.

Interview with Tony Waites

[Title]

Shell Representative Pioneering Spirit

[Tony Waites]

My job is to ensure that the procedures are all followed.

[Video footage]

Point of view footage of the Bravo platform seen through the windows of the Pioneering Spirit, with crewmembers of the Pioneering Spirit seen in silhouette in the foreground.

[Tony Waites]

And then I give the go-ahead for the next stage of the procedure to commence.

[Text displays]

Tony Waites

Shell Representative Pioneering Spirit

[Video footage]

Close-up footage of Tony Waites speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against the background of the bridge of the Pioneering Spirit.

[Tony Waites]

From now, we are in a standoff position outside the 500m zone. The next step is to move into close proximity around the platform, go underneath the platform with the bows of the ship, connect all of the lift points and then the next stop will be ready to fast lift.

[Video footage]

We see bird’s-eye-view footage of the Pioneering Spirit moving through shimmering ocean waters, approaching the shot, then cut back to close-up footage of Tony speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against the background of the bridge of the Pioneering Spirit. Next, we see medium footage of crewmembers working on the bridge of the Pioneering Spirit, then bird’s-eye-view footage of the Pioneering Spirit moving through the ocean, seen in side-view. This cuts to a wider view from the same angle, the twin hull of the vessel approaching the platform legs. Next, we see time-lapse footage of the twin hull with lifting arms moving into place on either side of the concrete legs of the Bravo platform, followed by high-angle footage of the tops of the platform legs as the Pioneering Spirit’s twin hull approaches. We cut to more bird’s-eye-view time lapse footage of the twin hull with lifting arms moving into place, straddling the Bravo platform legs and topside. This is followed by a slightly zooming bird’s-eye-view footage of the Pioneering Spirit with twin hull straddling the Bravo platform at dusk.

Interview with William Lindsay continued

[William Lindsay]

This whole operation requires very close coordination between a number of different departments. So one is the marine department, so the people who drive the vessel, if you like. One is the dynamic positioning department, so the people that control the thrusters that keep the vessel steady.

[Video footage]

We cut to a wider bird’s eye view of the Pioneering Spirit straddling the Bravo platform at dusk. This is followed by a video montage of different sets of crewmembers working in various control areas on the bridge of the Pioneering Spirit, where we see banks of screens displaying graphics and data. This cuts back to more bird’s-eye-view footage of the Pioneering Spirit straddling the Bravo platform at dusk.

[Text displays]

12 GPS thrusters

80 tonnes

[William Lindsay]

And then we have the ballasting department. So these are the people that manage and ensure that the ship’s weight stays constant or according to plan…

[Video footage]

We see medium footage of crewmembers in a control area on the bridge of the Pioneering Spirit, followed by a close-up of a screen displaying graphics and data. Next, we see bird’s-eye-view footage of the Pioneering Spirit in the ocean, seen in side-view.

[Text displays]

87 ballast tanks

700,000 tonnes

[William Lindsay]

So that it doesn’t go left or right, up or down. And then we’ve got the people who manage the topside lift system itself. So the coordination of those four departments is absolutely the key in this. And that’s why they are all in the one big area on the bridge. It’s a very large bridge, but it’s actually four different departments working together.

[Video footage]

Close-up footage of William Lindsay standing at the vessel’s windows, speaking to the off-camera interviewer, followed again by medium footage of crewmembers working in a control area on the bridge of the Pioneering Spirit. Next, we see time-lapse close-up footage of the lifting arms on the Pioneering Spirit’s twin hull moving into place underneath Bravo’s topside. We then cut to close-up footage of William Lindsay standing at the vessel’s windows, speaking to the off-camera interviewer. Next, we cut back to bird’s-eye-view footage of the Pioneering Spirit straddling the Bravo topside.

[Voiceover]

Pinpoint accuracy is needed to avoid coming into contact with Bravo’s legs.

[Text displays]

18.06.2019

1 hour to lift

[Video footage]

Extreme wide bird’s eye view of the Pioneering Spirit straddling the Bravo platform, surrounded by a shimmering sea.

Interview with Tony Waites continued

[Tony Waites]

In all weather conditions that we plan to do the lift, we don’t want the ship to move by more than plus or minus half a metre which accounts for the wind, waves, wave direction. So that all goes into the limitation of doing the lift.

[Video footage]

Time-lapse footage of the Pioneering Spirit’s twin hull moving in either side of Bravo’s concrete legs underneath the topside, seen from the point of view of the Pioneering Spirit. Next, we see medium reverse view footage of Tony and another crewmember standing at the bridge of the Pioneering Spirit, looking out towards the Bravo topside. This is followed by low-angle footage of the Bravo topside, and the Pioneering Spirit’s twin hull straddling it, cutting back to close-up footage of Tony Waites speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against the background of the bridge of the Pioneering Spirit.

[Voiceover]

Pioneering Spirit deploys cutting edge technology to connect its lifting arms to Bravo.

[Video footage]

Point of view footage of the sun rising at the horizon, seen through a porthole. This is followed by an extreme wide-angle bird’s eye view of the Pioneering Spirit straddling the Bravo topside, then by low angle footage of the underneath of the Bravo topside, as the Pioneering Spirit’s lifting arm system moves into place.

[Text displays]

6 lift arms

Interview with Tony Waites continued

[Tony Waites]

The innovation of the dynamic positioning and the active heave compensation which allows a ship that’s moving in the world to connect to something that’s fixed is impressive.

[Video footage]

Close-up low-angle footage of a lift arm connecting with the underside of the Bravo platform, cutting to wide low-angle footage of the lifting arms connected to the underside of the Bravo topside. Next, we see medium footage of crewmembers on the bridge, facing banks of screens displaying footage, graphics and data. This is followed by a video montage of time-lapse low-angle footage of lift arms moving in and connecting with the underside of the Bravo platform. Then we cut back to medium footage of crewmembers gathered on the bridge of the Pioneering Spirit.

[Crewmember]

I can confirm we are within half a metre.

[Video footage]

High-angle close-up of a crewmember’s hands on a document resting on a control panel, his index fingers holding place on the document. Next, we see a video montage of shots of crewmembers on the bridge, observing data on screens, and then, in response to a crewmember’s confirmation, some crewmembers approach the shot as they exit the area.

[William Lindsay]

Lots of people coming down the stairs, so it’s going to happen soon.

[Video footage]

Medium footage of William Lindsay standing at the railing of the Pioneering Spirit, speaking to the off-camera interviewer; in the background, we see the lift arms in place underneath the Bravo topside. Again, we see a montage of shots of crewmembers working on the bridge and observing data on screens.

[William Lindsay]

There we go!

[Video footage]

Medium footage of William Lindsay standing at the railing of the Pioneering Spirit, pointing towards the lift arms as they start to lift the Bravo topside; against the surrounding darkness, lights shine onboard the Pioneering Spirit.

[Voiceover]

25,000 tonnes is lifted in just nine seconds.

[Video footage]

Wide low-angle footage of the topside being lifted by Pioneering Spirit’s lift arm system, the Pioneering Spirit’s lights shining against the surrounding darkness. We cut back to footage of William Lindsay standing at the railing of the Pioneering Spirit, watching the Bravo topside being lifted. This is followed by wide low-angle footage of the topside being lifted by Pioneering Spirit’s lift arm system.

[Text displays]

9 seconds

[William Lindsay]

There we go.

[Video footage]

More footage of William Lindsay standing at the railing of the Pioneering Spirit, watching the Bravo topside being lifted, then turning to speak to the off-camera interviewer. Next, we see wide-angle footage of crewmembers standing at the railing of the Pioneering Spirit, applauding.

Interview with Evert van Herel

[Title]

Allseas Project Manager

[Text displays]

Evert Van Herel

Allseas Project Manager

[Evert van Herel]

Fantastic, very smooth, even better than Delta.

[Video footage]

Medium footage of Evert van Herel speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen standing against the railing of the Pioneering Spirit, the Bravo topside being lifted in the background.

Interview with Jeroen van der Sman

[Title]

Allseas Assistant Project Manager            

[Text displays]

Jeroen van der Sman

Allseas Assistant Project Manager

[Jeroen van der Sman]

Absolutely brilliant when years of work come together, and everything works at the time when it has to.

[Video footage]

Again, we see wide low-angle footage of the topside being lifted by Pioneering Spirit’s lift arm system. Then we cut to close-up footage of Jeroen van der Sman speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against the background of the lifting Bravo topside. Again, we see footage of William Lindsay standing at the railing of the Pioneering Spirit, watching the Bravo topside being lifted, and we hear the crew applauding in the background. We fade to black.

PART 3 Tow – Skid

[Voiceover]

The final stage of Bravo’s journey is about to begin.

[Video footage]

Panoramic footage of the sun rising over the ocean. We cut to high-angle footage of the swirling and shimmering blue ocean waters, then to bird’s-eye-view footage of the Bravo topside aboard the Pioneering Spirit, shown in side-view, moving through the misty ocean.

Interview with Tony Waites continued

[Tony Waites]

Once we’ve lifted the topsides, that’s the point of no return, because you can’t put the topsides back down again. So basically, we have a clock that starts to tick. We have to sea fasten the topsides so it’s stable as we transport, and then we’ll turn around and install the leg caps with the navigational aids. That has to be done, including the 32-hour travel window, all within a 72-hour period.

[Video footage]

Again, we see low-angle time-lapse footage of the Bravo topside being lifted clear of its concrete legs by the Pioneering Spirit’s lifting arm system and then moving away from the legs as we track the Pioneering Spirit’s movement. This is followed by bird’s-eye-view footage of the Pioneering Spirit moving away from the concrete legs with the Bravo topside aboard. We cut to wider-angle time-lapse footage of the Pioneering Spirit manoeuvring as it turns around beside the concrete legs. Next, we see a close-up of a leg cap being lowered on top of one of the Bravo platform’s concrete legs. Then, we see wide-angle bird’s-eye-view footage of the Pioneering Spirit anchored alongside the concrete legs, now with the leg caps installed. We cut back to close-up footage of Tony Waites speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against the background of the bridge of the Pioneering Spirit.

[Voiceover]

A 700km voyage lies ahead.

[Text displays]

700km voyage

[Video footage]

Side view bird’s-eye-view footage of the Pioneering Spirt moving through the ocean with the Bravo topside aboard, followed by a high-angle close-up of the surface deck of the Bravo topside being carried away by the Pioneering Spirit.

[Voiceover]

But the giant Pioneering Spirit won’t be taking Bravo all the way.

[Video footage]

High-angle footage of the shimmering surface of the ocean as the shot pans across the face of the waters. This is followed by a front-side bird’s eye view of the Pioneering Spirit moving through the ocean with the topside aboard.

Interview with Bethan Vasey continued

[Bethan Vasey]

The Pioneering Spirit sails down from the Brent field towards Hartlepool, and there, we carry out a transfer operation where the Iron Lady, which is an enormous barge in itself, comes and essentially docks within the Pioneering Spirit structure, and the two vessels work together so that the Brent Bravo topsides will be landed on top of the Iron Lady.

[Video footage]

Close-up of a ‘Brent B’ sign displayed against a corner of the Bravo topside as it moves through the ocean aboard the vessel. We cut to aerial footage of the topside aboard the Pioneering Spirit, and ocean water swirling below the moving vessel. Next, we see a close-up of a piece of equipment mounted at a corner railing, seen against a background of shimmering ocean waters. This is followed by close-up footage of Bethan Vasey speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against a blurred background. We next see aerial footage of the Iron Lady barge in the ocean, with tugs near each corner of the barge, and this cuts to wide-angle reverse view footage of crewmembers on the bridge of the barge, seen through large windows, as the barge moves into position. Next, we see low-angle footage of crewmembers working on the surface deck of one of the vessels; in the foreground, we see ropes and the railing and steel infrastructure at the side of the vessel. This is followed by time-lapse footage, by night, seen from various angles, of the topside aboard the Pioneering Spirit, and the tugs manoeuvring the Iron Lady barge in between the twin hull of the Pioneering Spirit.

[Voiceover]

The Bravo is lowered onto the Iron Lady by pumping out thousands of gallons of water ballast from the Pioneering Spirit, reducing the ships’ height by as much as 18m.

[Text displays]

37,000m³ / hour pump rate

[Video footage]

Time-lapse low-angle footage of the Bravo topside being lowered onto the Iron Lady barge.

Interview with Bethan Vasey continued

[Bethan Vasey]

Then, Allseas need to tow in the Iron Lady barge through the Seaton Channel towards the Able Facility.

[Video footage]

We see a video montage of the Bravo topside atop the Iron Lady, being manoeuvred down the Seaton Channel by the tugs.

[Bethan Vasey]

Now the barge doesn’t have its own propulsion. So we need four tugs to basically manoeuvre it down this channel safely, with the topsides sitting on top of it, at the right tidal conditions…

[Text displays]

200 metres long

57metres wide

[Video footage]

The video montage continues, as we see, from various angles, the Bravo topside atop the Iron Lady, being manoeuvred down the Seaton Channel by the tugs.

[Bethan Vasey]

So that we can sail all the way in, in one operation. And then, Allseas will manoeuvre it in and moor it alongside the quay at Able.

[Video footage]

We see wide-angle bird’s eye view of the Bravo topside aboard the Iron Lady, being manoeuvred into Seaton Port. This cuts to aerial footage of the surface deck of the topside aboard the barge moving through port waters. Next, we see wide-angle side view footage of the topside aboard the barge, surrounded by the tugs manoeuvring the barge through the port waters; overhead, we see white clouds in a brilliant blue sky, and in the foreground, seagulls fly and swoop over the port waters.

Interview with William Lindsay continued

[William Lindsay]

The barge is just coming in and we’re trying to line up the middle of the barge with that yellow stick. So the gentleman standing with the radio, green hat, blue coveralls, he’s the barge master, he is in control, he’s the only guy that’s communicating to the four tugs. And at the moment, they’re manoeuvring into the right place. We have to get this very accurate because we’re going to install the bridges to bring the whole lot down.

[Video footage]

Circling aerial footage of the barge with topside lining up alongside the quay at Able. This cuts to medium footage of William Lindsay on the quay at Able, speaking and pointing towards the Iron Lady as it lines up at quayside. We cut to a closer view of the Iron Lady manoeuvring to line up with a yellow stick at quayside, then back to medium footage of William standing on the quay, pointing towards the Iron Lady as he speaks. Next, we see medium footage of the barge master and other crewmembers standing on the deck of the Iron Lady, as the barge master speaks into a two-way radio. This cuts to aerial footage of the tugs manoeuvring the barge, then to a side view of a tug moving next to the barge, and finally, to another aerial view of the tugs manoeuvring the barge.

[Voiceover]

It takes ten hours to push the Bravo ashore so that recycling can begin.

[Video footage]

We pull back slowly on a wide-angle side view of the topside aboard the Iron Lady barge in port, and we see the sun starting to lower in the background.

Interview with Paul Corr

[Title]

Able UK HSE Officer

[Text displays]

Paul Corr

Able UK HSE Officer

[Paul Corr]

Shell want to do things right – let’s recycle it, let’s dispose of it correctly. And that’s what they done. They’ve come to Able and we’ve promised them 98%.

[Video footage]

Close-up of Paul Corr speaking to the off-camera interviewer; behind him, we see a pile of dismantled metal and industrial materials. This cuts to circling aerial footage of the surface deck of the Bravo topside aboard the barge at quayside.

[Text displays]

98% recycled

Interview with Bethan Vasey continued

[Bethan Vasey]

The Brent Field has been obviously part of oil and gas history for 40 years. And now, it’s amazing to see it both, first of all, come onshore, and then the way that it’s been processed and essentially sent away again in smaller pieces to be recycled is already pretty impressive sort of recycling of history.

[Video footage]

Extreme wide-angle time-lapse footage of the topside being moved along the tracks of the skidding system at Seaton Port, the entire process seen in daylight, then as night falls, and then in daylight again. Next, we see wide-angle footage of several workers at the Able yard, working with welding torches as they dismantle steel components; piles of dismantled metal can be seen in the background and foreground.

[Bethan Vasey]

And just being part of that journey, the final part of Brent, for me is like a massive honour and responsibility, to take it apart, to do that successfully and to show the industry that we can do a single lift dismantlement.

[Video footage and graphic]

We cut to close-up footage of Bethan Vasey speaking to the off-camera interviewer, seen against a blurred background. Finally, we close on time-lapse footage of the topside at the Able yard, starting to be dismantled; we see a crane moving about in the foreground as clouds race overhead. Centred over this footage is the Shell Pecten, with text displaying below

[Audio]

Shell brand mnemonic played on keys.

[Text displays]

© Shell International Limited 2019

The secrets revealed

The decommissioning of the Brent field was a decade in the planning.

Shell set out to make the process safe and to avoid causing any environmental harm. The company consulted with more than 400 people from more than 180 organisations and drew upon more than 300 scientific and technical studies.  

In April 2017, in the world's heaviest lift at sea, the Brent Delta topside was removed by the Pioneering Spirit, a ship that stretched the length of six jumbo jets. It was then ferried in a single piece across 700 kilometres of sea to a specially constructed quay at Able's Seaton Port facility in Hartlepool.

There, the Delta began to yield its secrets.

"It was like the Mary Celeste," says Corr, recalling the initial inspection. "We found a cup of tea exactly where it had been left, seemingly without a drop spilt.

"In the canteen the tables were lined up in one long row, decorated with plastic flowers.  A manager told me they had held a special dinner to mark their final night on the Delta - with the table layout resembling the painting of the Last Supper."

The Brent Delta topside was delivered to Hartlepool after the world’s heaviest lift at sea
The Brent Delta topside was delivered to Hartlepool after the world's heaviest lift at sea

Beating the target

The original plan had been to recycle or reuse 97% of the Delta. But today, with the last steel being cut into manageable blocks for reuse, Able is on course to recycle more than 98%. 

So after 34 years of operating in some of the world's harshest sea conditions, Brent Delta also proved its worth on land.   

The tins of food - containing beans, soups and vegetables - went to a food bank to help feed families in need locally.  

Office furniture was auctioned to raise money for a charity helping people with autism, and an organisation assisting the formerly homeless received a vanload of items ranging from TVs and DVD players to pots and pans and Wellington boots.

"It was like the Mary Celeste. We found a cup of tea exactly where it had been left, seemingly without a drop spilt..."

Paul Corr, Able UK

The Able workers cut the Delta into sections, the largest weighing 950 tonnes, using oxygen propane torches to burn through the steel.

When a section was almost completely detached, it was time for the pull-and-drop.  A steel rope attached the section to a mechanical digger.  The digger pulled, the section dropped.

Behind every pull-and-drop lay up to six weeks of planning.

Engineers calculated the section's precise trajectory so it fell onto a target pad built of sand and aggregate.

Brent Delta topside lift
"The Delta" arrives at Able UK's Seaton Port facility

Let sleeping dogs lie

Quay 6 was built to withstand the weight of the Brent field topsides.  

It was also seen as an investment to sustain jobs in a region that has seen unemployment rising.  

Paul Corr is proud of Able's work. "For almost 40 years, the Delta was a key part of an offshore oil field that produced energy for homes, and employment for thousands," he says. "And now, even while being decommissioned, it is benefiting the public."

Brent Delta is just the start. After another successful North Sea lift, Able has taken delivery of the topside of Brent Bravo, the Shell-platform that in 1976 produced the field's first oil.

Timelapse: Brent Delta dismantled

Timelapse video of how Brent Delta was dismantled for recycling.

Who will benefit from the recycling of Bravo remains to be seen, but Able's workforce is clearly inventive.

The bedding found on the Delta consisted of cotton mattresses and the memory foam toppers that go above them for extra comfort.

Able's waste manager Mark Ditton, the owner of a miniature schnauzer, knew a good dog bed when he saw one.

He drove more than 50 toppers to the Save Our Strays charity in the nearby town of Guisborough. The rig-worker-sized dog beds were an instant hit with the larger kennel residents.

"The greyhounds loved them," says the charity's founder, Margaret Young.