Recycling steel casings from oil wells

Materials World magazine
10 May 2019

Metals from decommissioned oil wells in the North Sea are being repurposed in two major Scottish developments.

Steel casing pipes from former oil wells in the North Sea have been used in new Scottish infrastructure projects, which are due to open this year.

The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA) and the Montrose Port redevelopment used these pipes in their construction. These sites were highlighted at The Iron Cycle (Fe150) conference in March (see pages 26 and 28) as examples where such pipes were recycled after industrial use.

The £333mln TECA development is expected to open this summer, replacing the Aberdeen Exhibition Conference and Centre. The 48,000m² of event space includes conference suites, exhibition halls, a 12,500 capacity arena, hospitality suites, restaurant and two hotels.

The Montrose Port project, which cost £7.7mln, includes the redevelopment of berths seven and eight, a new deck with a ground loading of 7.5t/m², a heavy lift pad of 15t/m², and an interceptor boat. One berth was finished in late March and the second is expected to be completed in October.

Steel tube supplier company John Lawrie Tubulars, Montrose, Scotland, supplied both of these projects with steel casing pipe, which were used to line oil and gas wells in the North Sea. The TECA project used 20km of reclaimed piling pipe to support the buildings. The Montrose Port project includes 2.5km of 339mm diameter steel casing pipe for use as piling on the first phase of the project. The pipe was driven into the ground to depths of 30m. Materials World was unable to confirm if other suppliers were used in each project at time of print.

John Lawrie Tubulars Director Iain Laing said the materials used at Montrose had been brought ashore to that port.

‘Reusing steel casing pipe as piling pipe supports the concept of the circular economy,’ he said. ‘It is an approach whereby resources are kept in use for as long as possible and then recycled or repurposed into new products or utilised in new ways.’

Laing said the company uses the port to import and export steel tubulars. ‘For steel pipe that came across the port’s quayside at the end of its initial life, to now form the foundations of the new quayside is quite unique,’ he said.

Laing stated that as part of business operations, once the pipes have been collected, they are inspected for their suitability and integrity and placed in bays according to size, then cleaned using a pipe-cleaning machine to remove any debris, and the wall thicknesses are checked using specialist equipment.

The pipes are then measured and cut to length to meet customer specifications and, following a final inspection and quality check, delivered directly to customer sites for installation. Laing said the steel casing pipes his company reuses as piling were designed for use in a harsh environment.

‘The steel grade is higher than British Standards and the wall thickness is greater, resulting in a higher quality piling product than the job requires, but one that provides added strength and surety when being driven into the ground,’ he said.

The company buys pulled pipe from oil and gas operators globally, which has minimised waste, saved an equal volume of CO² emissions, and helped establish a more robust economy.

‘Reusing steel casing pipe as steel piling pipe demonstrates the innovative thinking required to fully realise the potential of the circular economy,’ he said.

Well Decom Ltd Managing Director, Stephen Jewell, highlighted these projects at the conference as examples of work where such pipes were reused. He said, on average, about half the steel used in a well in the North Sea could be recovered.

Jewell said about 1,500 wells in the North Sea are forecast to be decommissioned in the next 10 years, and estimated that 750,000 tonnes of steel could be recovered from North Sea wells in this time. More than 90% of this could be redeployed as construction piles or for other applications.