ONE of Scotland’s leading oil industry figures has attacked decommissioning plans by Shell that could see the giant legs of three offshore oil platforms left in the North Sea.

Speaking exclusively to The National, Professor Alex Russell – chairman of the Oil Industry Finance Association, who also chairs a working group on North Sea decommissioning – said: “It’s appalling, completely unacceptable, particularly when they are outsourcing jobs from Glasgow to India and elsewhere.

“Why on earth should the UK Government subsidise Shell and other oil companies for decommissioning when they’re going to leave half their garbage to litter our sea beds?”

“I don’t understand for a minute why Greenpeace have not been more proactive on this. We really need to take a determined stance against the oil industry here. The North Sea off the coast of Scotland, as far as I am concerned, is not a litter bin for oil companies to leave whatever they want.”

Shell has lodged documents with the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to close down four platforms in the Brent field, which started producing oil about 115 miles east of Shetland 40 years ago but which is said to be “no longer economically viable”.

Earlier this year, the oil giant said it would seek an exemption to leave platform legs – said to weigh about 300,000 tonnes – on safety grounds.

Its latest report said the “footings” of the Brent Alpha platform would be left under sea level while the steel and concrete legs of the other three larger platforms – Bravo, Charlie and Delta – would remain under its current plans.

The report said: “Each structure which supports the topsides above the surface of the sea weighs 300,000 tonnes, roughly the same as the Empire State Building.

“We have analysed a long list of options for the gravity base structures (GBS) such as re-floating, partial removal or leaving them in place. Our recommendation is that the safest and most responsible solution is to leave the GBS legs and oil storage cells in place, marked with navigation aids so they are recognisable to shipping, fishermen and other users of the sea.”

A spokeswoman for the company added: “Shell is liaising with the BEIS and expects the public consultation on the Brent decommissioning programme to commence in the New Year.”

However, WWF Scotland said the legs could pose an environmental risk if left in the North Sea.

Director Lang Banks said: “While removing these structures is not without environmental risk, neither is leaving them lying on the seabed to slowly break down over hundreds of years.

“The industry pushed the boundaries of science and engineering to access North Sea oil and gas. Having made massive profits over the last few decades, it’s only right that it should push those limits once again to clean up their potentially hazardous legacy and protect the marine environment.

“Given the enormous size of the rigs and the iconic nature of the Brent field, its decommissioning is being watched closely and should therefore be aiming to set the highest possible benchmarks for the rest of the industry to follow.

“If done right, it could open the door for Scotland to lead a new multibillion-pound, global decommissioning industry that could create thousands of jobs as we continue our transition away from fossil fuels.

“Given the potential impact on the marine environment, we will be carefully examining the proposal that goes out for consultation.

Shell’s latest update revealed that Nasa had been involved in the decommissioning process, with a camera and scanner used to inspect space shuttles sent down to investigate the legs of the Brent Bravo platform.