Regulation of the FPSO decommissioning process in Brazil

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The oil industry has great importance in the economic development of Brazil, and the exploration of offshore fields has been driven by the use of FPSOs – “Floating Production Storage and Offloading”, translated  in Portuguese as “Unidade Flutuante de Armazenamento e Transferência”.

However, even with all their relevance, these units have a limited service life. At its completion, it is necessary to execute the decommissioning process to ensure environmental safety and legal compliance.

In this article, we will present the key aspects related to this task, covering everything from Brazilian regulation and legislation to best practices and future trends. Check!

The FPSO decommissioning process

It is a complex procedure that requires planning and involves several steps. The first is the deactivation of the unit, that is, the interruption of the operation of the process plant and the transfer of the remaining oil on board.

Then preparatory activities take place, such as cleaning the process plant and tanks. Still in the operating location, the production risers and the anchoring system are disconnected from the FPSO, which is finally ready to be removed from the site and put into inactivity in an appropriate way, ensuring the protection of the environment and the safety of those involved.

Finally, at the destination shipyard, the last stage of the decommissioning process occurs, the dismantling, where equipment and structures are removed and destined for the proper purposes (reuse, recycling or disposal).

Regulation and Legislation in Brazil 

Due to the need and the care involved, the decommissioning of FPSOs requires regulation. In Brazil, this standardization is done by different agencies, the main ones being: the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP), the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) and the Navy.

Each agency has specific responsibilities in the supervision and approval of the decommissioning plans of the operating companies. In general, IBAMA analyzes the solutions presented considering the environmental impacts, the ANP evaluates the technical aspects, and the Navy evaluates issues of navigation and maritime safety.

Brazilian law requires operators to draw up detailed decommissioning plans before decommissioning the production unit, called Facility Decommissioning Programs (PDI). These should include technical, environmental and safety aspects, ensuring that the process is conducted safely and responsibly. 

More details on the regulations can be found in the document prepared by the Federal Court of Auditors that deals with the decommissioning of offshore oil and gas installations (TC 039.462/2019-6).

Environmental Challenges and Considerations

This is an activity that presents significant challenges, especially from an environmental point of view. The removal of large floating structures and the decommissioning of complex equipment can cause negative impacts on marine life and coastal ecosystems. Therefore, it is essential to carry out environmental impact studies and follow the guidelines established by the regulatory bodies. 

Environmental considerations also include proper disposal of waste generated during the FPSO decommissioning process, post-decommissioning monitoring to assess impacts on the ecosystem, and the adoption of sustainable practices to minimize environmental damage.

International Strategies and Best Practices

To face the challenges of this process, it is essential to seek international references. Countries with experience in this field have adopted best practices that can be applied in Brazil. Examples include the UK, Norway, Australia and Denmark, which have advanced regulations and technologies for safe and environmentally responsible decommissioning.

Best practices include recycling and reusing materials, applying advanced cutting and hoisting techniques, and conducting dismantling simulations to anticipate potential problems and improve process efficiency.

Future Perspectives and Trends in FPSO Decommissioning in Brazil

The oil and gas industry is constantly evolving, and the decommissioning of FPSOs is no exception. With the increase in the number of units reaching the end of their useful life, it is expected that the activity will become more frequent in Brazil.

Future prospects include improvements in decommissioning and recycling technology, fostering the national decommissioning and recycling industry, and greater integration between oil companies and government agencies to develop more comprehensive and effective regulations.

The decommissioning of FPSOs is an important step in the Brazilian and international oil industry, as it ensures the protection of the environment and the sustainability of the sector. Therefore, it is necessary to observe the regulations and invest in the best practices to face the challenges in this responsible way, aiming at a safer and environmentally conscious future.

Enjoy reading and check out the involvement of Proper Marine in the decommissioning process of the FPSO Capixaba unit, located in the Cachalote field, in the region of Parque das Baleias, in the Campos Basin (Espírito Santo, Brazil).

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