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Thursday, 21 March 2013, 6 p.m., Edinburgh
Offshore Decommissioning

Austin Hand, Project Director, Brent Decommissioning Project, Shell

Sponsorship is provided by and Scottish Oil Club (Students).Wood Mackenzie,

This event occurred on: Thursday, 21 March 2013, 6 p.m.


Funding for student participation from member universities provided by Scottish Oil Club.



Austin has spent most of his working life in engineering design and construction. The early years were spent working for a “Victorian Engineering Company” designing ball mills and pebble mills used to refine ore in South Africa. He also designed pressure vessels to various design codes around the world. With the advent of oil and gas in the UK, Austin got into the construction business working on Forties Bravo and Thistle’s massive steel jackets, built in his native North East of England.

Joining Shell as a mature hire in 1978, he spent ten years in Lowestoft as Chief Engineer on the construction of gas platforms for the southern sector of the North Sea. This included Shell’s first two unmanned platforms. After a spell as Head of Safety, Austin headed north to Aberdeen to take up a role as Engineering Team Lead for northern North Sea platforms. After the Piper Alpha disaster he took a role on Shell’s “Cullen Task Force” implementing the findings from Piper Alpha. A string of projects followed, a mix of subsea, FPSO’s and more conventional gas platforms.

He used to refer to himself as “Bob the Builder”, but that had to change with his current project. Austin will talk you through the challenges he now faces, decommissioning the massive, complex and iconic Brent Field. This involves plugging and abandoning 154 wells, removing the topsides of four Brent Platforms, then transferring to shore for disposal. Brent platforms have a combined topside weight of 100,000 tonnes. This is a multi $billion challenge stretching over 12 years. Austin will also share the complexities of dealing with large concrete structures that sit on the seabed in 150 metres of water; all of which have been used to store oil for the last 35 years.


After qualifying in Mechanical Engineering in 1971 Austin worked in a variety of industries for ten years, for the most part in design and construction roles. In 1978 Austin joined Shell and broadened into project engineering and management.

His first role in Shell was as Resident Engineer for the Indefatigable L platform and within the next ten years he was appointed as Chief Engineer on Indefatigable M and N platforms, Shell’s first unmanned satellites.

After a period as Head of Safety and Standards in 1988, he transferred to the northern fields in Aberdeen as Engineering Team Leader for the Dunlin and Cormorant Alpha platforms.

Following assignments in operations and on the post Piper Alpha Cullen Task Force, He held a number of different roles in facilities and development, in project management and in commercial and supply chain management. This was followed by a series of Projects, as Project Manager. These included, Kingfisher, Curlew FPSO and the Triton FPSO on secondment to Amerada Hess. He then became Venture Manager for Goldeneye, one of the most successful UK projects in recent times.

Austin then became General Manager of Shell’s unique in house Design office, responsible for a number of engineering and design projects in Gabon, Nigeria, the Middle East, Russia and Europe.

In March 2008 he became Project Director for the Brent Decommissioning Project, which will be the largest and most complex decommissioning project yet to be undertaken in the North Sea.

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