Future oil and gas decommissioning could offer significant economic opportunities for the Outer Hebrides, the Comhairle’s Sustainable Development Committee has heard.

A new Decommissioning Group has been formed to help develop the sector in the Islands.

Discussions at the Committee centred around a ‘refreshed’ Decommissioning Strategy which focuses on ongoing market analysis, supply chain readiness and profile/promotion.

The refresh seeks to work together with Stornoway Port Authority’s emerging Stornoway Port Plan, in particular proposals for a new Deep Water Port at Arnish, survey of existing Load In/Load Out facilities and general environmental assessments which will facilitate Decommissioning work.

Decommissioning of UK Continental Shelf Oil and Gas infrastructure is now emerging as a priority and, in 2015, the Comhairle agreed to explore the potential benefits for the Outer Hebrides from this process. 470 installations, 10,000km of pipeline, 15 Onshore Terminals and 5,000 wells require to be decommissioned over the next period in an industry which will be worth £35 billion by 2040.

Sustainable Development Chairman, Donald Crichton, said: “The potential of decommissioning work is an exciting prospect which could offer real and significant employment and economic opportunities. It is important that we put the work in now to maximise those opportunities for the Islands in future. It is also important that we work with our partners to ensure the Islands are best placed to take advantage of the opportunities that decommissioning will provide.”

An Outer Hebrides Oil and Gas Decommissioning Strategy, exploring some of these opportunities, was approved by the Comhairle during 2015.

The original Outer Hebrides Decommissioning Strategy, approved by the Comhairle in 2015 was developed by the Comhairle, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Stornoway Port Authority.

A Market Analysis report was commissioned and a key recommendation of that report was the establishment of an industry led Outer Hebrides Energy Group. That Group is now in place and is driving the Decommissioning agenda, supported by the Comhairle and its partners.

The Outer Hebrides Decommissioning Group has identified a lucrative niche opportunity for the islands in the storage, reconditioning, resale and local re-use of oil rig components and modules designated for recycling and is confident that elements of that niche market can be attracted to the islands.