THE Invergordon-based Port of Cromarty Firth this week claimed to be the first in Scotland to secure new decommissioning permits that could pave the way for new jobs.
The permit under the Radioactive Substances Act, granted by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), allows it to undertake decommissioning projects that include the accumulation and disposal of what are termed Normally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM), which can be generated through the oil production process.
The regulations aim to minimise impacts to human health and the environment and contain specific limitations and conditions under which radioactive substances can be used, stored and disposed of.
The permit covers almost the whole of the port-owned Invergordon Service Base; around 600m of quayside and 80,000sqm of laydown area. It allows for the processing of 50,000 tonnes of waste material per year.
Captain Calum Slater, general manager, said: "This permit means the port is now decommissioning-ready. We have the licences, capacity, experience and infrastructure, combined with a strategic location in the North Sea, and we are currently in talks with a number of companies about bringing this work to the Highlands."
Meanwhile, Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie this week praised Sepa after it issued a directive preventing the shipment of three oil rigs cold-stacked in the Cromarty Firth.
Chief operating officer John Kenny said: "Every day Sepa works to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment. This includes ensuring that – where possible – resources are reused or recycled or, if not, waste is disposed of appropriately. Last week Sepa was made aware of the imminent shipment of three oil rigs from the Cromarty Firth, and concerns about their destination and disposal. Sepa experts in the transfrontier shipment of waste immediately began investigations to establish whether movement of the vessels would be in accordance with European Commission Regulations for waste shipments and issued an immediate direction on January 12 preventing movement of the vessels.
"Our investigations are still ongoing, and until we are satisfied that there would be no breach of regulations we have directed that the vessels remain undisturbed. We have notified the harbour authority of this decision."
Mr Finnie said: "I welcome the precautionary approach adopted by Sepa to ensure the protection of the precious waters of the Cromarty Firth and beyond. In 2016 we saw the Transocean Winner rig run aground on Lewis and it is absolutely right that Sepa make the necessary enquiries to establish where these rigs are being transported and that their movement complies with the appropriate regulations."
He added: "I trust they will apply the same rigour when scrutinising any future proposal for ship to ship oil transfers in the area."
Offshore energy union RMT had earlier flagged fears about the prospect of platforms in the Cromarty Firth being taken to India or Bangladesh for decommissioning. It said Scotland had the skills to do the work much closer to home.