Shell floats a greener future for the North Sea oil platform no one wanted

The first and most difficult step is to raise the Brent Spar (main picture) out of its deep-water, vertical position so that it can be brought ashore. This could be done by gradually pumping in compressed gas (1), which will in turn pump out the oily sea water inside into a nearby tanker. Slowly, like a huge bottle, the Spar would rise to float on its side - but the danger is that the structure would split and sink, because it was weakened when it was first placed in the vertical position after construction 20 years ago.

The alternative (2) is to place a platform beneath it, attached to a large barge on the surface. Powerful winches would then lift the structure a few metres at a time. The portion lifted above the sea would be sliced off using cutting gear, removed by a crane and taken to land by barge - then the Spar would be lifted a few metres again for the next section to be cut away.

Once ashore (3), the uppermost 'topsides' of the Spar could be turned into an onshore training centre. Alternatively, the whole 14,500-tonne structure could simply become metal scrap, be sliced into giant rings which would support a pier (4), or form the foundation of artificial reefs (5),which would curb coastal erosion.

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