The INSITE Programme was conceived in 2012 to produce independent science leading to a greater understanding of the influence of man-made structures on the North Sea ecosystem. The first of some 38 scientific papers from INSITE Phase 1 science have appeared in peer reviewed journals. The Programme has established itself as the focal point for marine research around man-made structures in the North Sea, attracting recognition and support from government through BEIS and DEFRA, and the scientific community through NERC, the Natural Environment Research Council.
The public debate around what is the ‘right thing to do’ with oil and gas structures at the end of their useful life has gathered pace in 2016 and 2017 as the amount and profile of decommissioning has increased. In turn OPRED, the regulator responsible for decommissioning in the UKCS has been refining its approach to applying the regulations as the realities of the process of decommissioning become more apparent.
In mid-2016, NERC expressed their interest in participating in INSITE. Working with the INSITE Science Board and NERC scientists, a ‘Science Case’ has been developed for funding under NERC’s JSR, Joint Strategic Response, model as part of INSITE Phase 2. The JSR model relies on a partnership between NERC and industry to deliver excellent scientific outcomes. In October 2017, NERC provisionally approved a £5Million contribution to the science programme in INSITE Phase 2, subject to confirming a partnership with industry. Based on this opportunity from NERC, a proposal to industry partners for INSITE Phase 2 has been developed.
Interest and support from industry has been significant and now with 8 industry partners funding has been confirmed and the more detailed scope for INSITE phase 2 developed structured around three elements; a data initiative, a science programme and a technology programme.