n a remote harbor guarded by two steep headlands in the north of Scotland, dozens of oil platforms appear in the landscape without any movement some for more than a decade, in silence, waiting for offshore oil extraction to return to profitability.
The Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) was established in 1972 as a dry dock for the repair and manufacturing of oil platforms operating in the North Sea. This region, which includes the shallow waters of the UK, Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, was one of the busiest offshore drilling centers in the worldor, with hundreds of teams working actively, although its boom days are behind us. With oil prices steadily declining over the last couple of years, many oil companies decided to suspend their operations but there are still those who are hopeful that prices will pick up again.
Instead of dismantling their oil rigs, these companies decided to leave their structures anchored in the depths of the sea and in the port of Cromarty Firth, where they can remain on standby and ready to go as soon as the economy turns in their favor. Some of these rigs are called “hot-stacked,” meaning they still have a skeleton crew on board, keeping the expensive machines. Others are completely abandoned. Secondly, a couple of them were already removed by a crane headed for scrapping.
According to Bloomberg, only 63% of oil and gas platforms in the UK North Sea were used as of January 2016 due to falling energy prices, forcing drillers to abandon the most expensive projects. An industry analyst predicts that nearly 150 more oil rigs could be removed from UK waters in the next 10 years. For now, while thousands of people in the oil industry have lost their jobs, oil rig scrapping looks like it could benefit from the Cromarty Firth port and its idle status.