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Imagine being a senior manager at Shell UK, part of Royal Dutch Shell, one of the largest corporations in the world, in 1991. You have just decided to decommission the massive oil platform Brent Spar, positioned in the North Sea. After conducting around 30 different studies, and engaging various local governments and NGOs, you and your team decide that sinking the platform in deep water is the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO), as opposed to horizontal decomposition on land. Due to the platform’s size and the damage to some of the storage tanks, moving the Brent Spar to shore for decomposition on land would be complicated, costly – US$69 million versus US$18 million for the sinking option – and potentially damaging to the environment. Convinced you have adequately compared the options, you send a BPEO concept to the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which licenses the operation in February 1995, after consulting the other four governments in the Associations of Nations around the North Sea and the European Commission, none of which object. You and your bosses are mindful of the sensitivities surrounding this decision given that no one has ever decommissioned a platform this way. However, you have gone out of your way in doing your due diligence.
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- Chapter 5