The contractor brought in to decommission the Northern Endeavor has taken control of the ageing oil vessel, after the Australian Government spent the last two years maintaining it because its previous owner went into liquidation.
On Monday, the federal government announced the early “milestone” for what is shaping as a lengthy and costly decommissioning project to be paid for by the oil industry.
The Northern Endeavour is a 274-metre former oil production vessel connected to the Corallina oilfields floating on the Timor Sea about 550 kilometres north-west of Darwin.
In 2019, its former owners went into liquidation, leaving responsibility of the facility and its decommissioning to the Australian Government.
In April, former resources minister Keith Pitt announced a $325 million contract has been signed with Petrofac Facilities Management Limited to deliver Phase 1 of the project following a global competitive tender.
It followed legislation to impose a temporary levy on the oil industry to recover the costs of decommissioning and remediating the environment.
The UK-based multinational has now taken operational control of the vessel and begun phase one of the decommissioning process, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Madeleine King announced on Monday.
“The Government will work closely with Petrofac and regulators to ensure the safety of workers on the Northern Endeavour, and to protect the environment,” Ms King said in statement.
The company has said it expects to have decommissioned and disconnected the facility from the subsea equipment by around October next year.
The contractor’s control follows lengthy planning by the Industry department, which has set up a dedicated Northern Endeavour Decommissioning Project Management Office.
The department has spent millions on consultants to staff the office, paying around $360,000 a year for the outsourced workers.
British engineering and consulting business Wood is also being paid $8.8 million to oversee phase one in partnership with the Australian Government.
The Australian Government had been maintaining the Northern Endeavour since its previous owner Northern Oil & Gas Australia (NOGA) went into liquidation.
“The Australian Government remains committed to the successful decommissioning of the Northern Endeavour, the removal of infrastructure and the remediation of the Laminaria and Corallina oil fields,” Ms King said.
Oil and gas giant Woodside sold the Northern Endeavour facility to NOGA in 2016. Rival companies have criticised the sale to the smaller company that couldn’t afford to decommission it.
Woodside has denied it sold its majority interest in the Laminaria-Corallina oil fields, including the facility, to NOGA to avoid the costs of decommissioning the facility and rehabilitating the environment.
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