Well-Safe Solutions appoints Subsurface Team Lead to drive service growth

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Well decommissioning services company Well-Safe Solutions have appointed Ruth Thomas as Subsurface Team Lead, with the company broadening its range of subsurface well plug and abandonment (P&A) design services in response to increased client demand. 

Ruth has over two decades of experience in providing subsurface support to assets in the UK sector of the North Sea for energy majors including Repsol Sinopec Resources UK, Apache Corporation and CNR International Ltd. 

She joins Well-Safe Solutions from Repsol Sinopec Resources UK, where she held numerous roles including Senior Geophysicist for 15 years. 

Ruth said: “As the demand for Well-Safe Solutions’ assets and engineering expertise grows, I am delighted to have been given this opportunity to advance Well-Safe’s subsurface capability during its next phase of growth.” 

“Together with Well-Safe’s operational experts both on and offshore, I am excited to demonstrate how having the right subsurface isolation strategy is an important part in delivering a safe, smart and efficient well plug and abandonment strategy for our clients.” 

Ruth will lead her team to ensure regulatory compliance and cost efficiencies are realised for a roster of clients during this crucial phase of the well plug and abandonment process. 

James Richards, Well Abandonment Director at Well-Safe Solutions, said: “Attracting someone of Ruth’s calibre into the business is a clear statement of intent from Well-Safe Solutions as we progress into our next chapter of growth. 

“Ruth’s geophysics knowledge and expertise for decommissioning workscopes, including Subsurface Basis of Design (SSBoD) for well decommissioning projects, will better equip the business to add further value for our clients.” 

The expansion of the subsurface capability at Well-Safe Solutions follows on from a high number of enquiries from energy sector operators looking to Well-Safe Solutions for market-leading expertise on subsurface isolation strategy, including assessment of shale barriers and an as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) approach to well decommissioning design. 

Ruth holds an MSc with Distinction in Decommissioning and an MSc in Geology, both from the University of Aberdeen, and a first-class BEng in Industrial Geology from the Camborne School of Mines.  

Well-Safe Protector to decommission Neptune Energy wells in North Sea

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Well-Safe Solutions and Neptune Energy have agreed a contract for the Well-Safe Protector jack-up rig to plug and abandon (P&A) at least four subsea and 21 platform wells in the Dutch and UK sectors of the North Sea.

The one-year, firm contract also enables Neptune Energy to take up Well-Safe’s broad range of decommissioning engineering services if required, as well as the option of up to eight three-month extensions.

Mobilising during Q1 2023 in direct continuation from an earlier well decommissioning project for Ithaca Energy, the Well-Safe Protector is a harsh environment, independent leg cantilever design jack-up rig with an extensive operational history in the North Sea.

Duncan Morison, Rig Manager of the Well-Safe Protector, said: “With the addition of a further backlog of work to the Well-Safe Protector’s schedule, we are delighted at the level of interest the Well-Safe business model continues to generate in mature fields such as the North Sea.

“The Well-Safe Protector boasts a large volume of deck space for tubing, casing and conductor recovery, allowing effective batch operations and helping our clients to realise considerable operational savings.

“There are clear operational synergies between Well-Safe Solutions and Neptune Energy, and we look forward to collaborating with the Neptune team to effectively and efficiently plug and abandon these fields.”

Stuart Payne, NSTA Director of Supply Chain, Decommissioning and HR, added: “We have consistently pressed operators and the supply chain to work in a collaborative way to form well decommissioning campaigns, which are more cost-efficient and help save time and lower emissions.

“The Well-Safe Protector’s upcoming mobilisation for a multi-operator campaign is the latest encouraging sign that industry has got the message loud and clear. The cross-border element of this work also highlights the potential for exporting the considerable decommissioning expertise of the UK supply chain to other regions.”

The announcement follows on from news earlier in the summer that the Well-Safe Protector will plug and abandon six wells on the Anglia platform in the Southern North Sea for Ithaca Energy, mobilising in autumn 2022.

Well-Safe Guardian to be upgraded with market-leading modular intervention system

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Well decommissioning experts Well-Safe Solutions have partnered with Trendsetter Engineering, Inc. to fit the Well-Safe Guardian semi-submersible rig with the Trident Intervention System.

Featuring a compact yet powerful design, the Trident is an effective single-system solution which can be configured for hydraulic intervention, riserless light well intervention and open water intervention riser operations.

The partnership provides Well-Safe Solutions with exclusive access to the system in the UK for well plug and abandonment (P&A).

Robin Kimber, Well-Safe Guardian Rig Manager, said: “Well-Safe Solutions prides itself on its bespoke P&A offering, offering our clients the flexibility and technical superiority required to carry out well decommissioning operations safely and efficiently.

“Trendsetter’s clear expertise in this field, as well as the versatility of the Trident system, makes it an ideal fit for the Well-Safe Guardian – the first asset we have converted to exclusively carry out well decommissioning operations.”

The main application for the Trident system will be in open water intervention riser mode, providing secure mechanical access for wireline or coiled tubing operations.

Steven Chalmers, Wells Subsea Team Lead at Well-Safe Solutions, added: “The Trident subsea intervention system uses advanced technologies for well P&A operations, aligning with our client promise to provide safe, smart and efficient operations.

“The extensive technical knowledge and experience of the Trendsetter team, coupled with Trident’s technical prowess, will strengthen the Well-Safe Guardian’s claim to be the ‘one mobile offshore drilling unit’ solution.”

The investment into the Trident system comes after a busy summer for Aberdeen-based Well-Safe Solutions, which marked its fifth anniversary in business in August 2022, and signed a deal to P&A 14 wells on the UK continental shelf from March 2023.

Video: Well-Safe Solutions 5th Anniversary

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Five years of Well-Safe Solutions

On 1 August 2017, Well-Safe Solutions officially started trading from a small office in the West End of Aberdeen with five members of staff. Five years later, we have matured into a fast-growing business, employing over 250 people across three bespoke decommissioning assets and a modern office in Cove.

As we mark our fifth anniversary, Well-Safe is continuing to set new standards in efficient and safe well decommissioning in the North Sea, while establishing solid foundations for expansion into international markets.

In the first two years of business, Well-Safe Solutions successfully navigated the challenges which face any fledgling business – building our team with experienced staff, developing our bespoke business systems and processes and growing our future workforce with graduate positions in several departments.

In 2019, we kicked off the first of our fleet acquisitions with the Well-Safe Guardian – our first semi-submersible decommissioning unit – and began our first managed contract decommissioning the Fulmar AD wells for Repsol Sinopec.  We followed this up later that year by scoring our first large-scale contract to decommission wells for DNO North Sea on the Schooner and Ketch fields. This was also the year we moved into our current premises at the Gateway Business Park in Cove, Aberdeen.

While the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic were unprecedented, our business emerged in a stronger position as a result of the protective measures we took to strengthen and develop during this time. In September 2020 we welcomed the Well-Safe Protector jack-up rig to the business, which is presently preparing to mobilise for Ithaca Energy in late summer 2022.

The continued focus and effort of our offshore and onshore-based teams meant that we were able to really hit the ground running in 2021, with the Well-Safe Guardian securing work for Repsol Sinopec Resources and CNR International UK Ltd. As a result of these wins, our teams have increased both in size and scope, with over 130 new personnel joining us across the business in the past year.

Although there have been several milestones achieved during the first five years of the business, one of the most memorable was the mobilisation of the Well-Safe Guardian for Repsol Sinopec and CNR International in January 2022 realising our ambition to deliver multi-operator, multi-well campaigns.

A recent highlight for Well-Safe was the purchase of the Well-Safe Defender semi-submersible in June of this year, giving our clients greater flexibility for their well decommissioning requirements.  A little over a month after taking ownership of the rig, we have secured a significant backlog of work for the Well-Safe Defender – demonstrating clear demand for our solutions in our fifth anniversary year.

While our acquisitions and contract wins help to demonstrate our success as a business, we are immensely proud of our commitment to operational safety both on and offshore, as nothing is more important than returning safely to our families. Across all of our assets, we continue to pursue our end goal of zero incidents, promoting a positive safety culture in which everyone takes responsibility for their own safety as well as that of their colleagues.

A clear goal of ours from the outset was to use the decommissioning opportunities in the North Sea to demonstrate the future exportability of our business model. Looking to the future, we are actively pursuing exciting new opportunities throughout Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions in order to secure years of work to come.

As we continue to grow, the ethical impact and sustainability of Well-Safe will come to the fore as we successfully navigate the energy transition, reduce our environmental impact and manage our climate and business risks.

While a lot has changed over the last five years, Well-Safe’s guiding vision remains unchanged and on track. We have never forgotten our steadfast commitment to the mission and promises which set our offering apart from the rest: our desire to be the industry’s trusted well decommissioning service partner of choice.

The Well-Safe Solutions senior management team

Well-Safe Solutions inks new UKCS decommissioning deal

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Well decommissioning specialists Well-Safe Solutions have signed an agreement to plug and abandon (P&A) 14 wells on the UK continental shelf.

The deal is the first scope agreed for the Well-Safe Defender semi-submersible rig, which Well-Safe Solutions purchased in June 2022.

The project, for an undisclosed value, will see the Well-Safe Defender mobilising in March 2023 for approximately 250 days of work.

Neil Ferguson, Operations Director at Well-Safe Solutions, said: “This is a very exciting time for our teams, with a little over a month between Well-Safe taking ownership of the Well-Safe Defender and the signing of this contract with our latest client.”

The Well-Safe Defender is currently undergoing a host of efficiency enhancements as part of its integration into the business as well as the completion of its recertification ahead of mobilisation in March 2023.

Gavin Robinson, Commercial Manager at Well-Safe Solutions, added: “We are delighted to assist our client, a leading European operator, with meeting their decommissioning obligations on these historic fields.

“Like the Well-Safe Guardian and Well-Safe Protector, the Well-Safe Defender is a dedicated decommissioning asset converted from a drilling rig. Clients benefit from a greatly reduced carbon footprint and quicker mobilisation times as a result, as no virgin steel is required for a new-build rig.

“In addition to the clear economic benefits of this approach, we expect this work to generate approximately 60 new positions offshore, with several supporting roles also required onshore. This will take the total estimated headcount in Well-Safe to 330 people in early 2023.”

This contract announcement is the latest in a summer of growth for Well-Safe Solutions, who previously announced a well decommissioning contract with Ithaca Energy as well as a capital funding boost of £50m+ by new and existing investors.

Well-Safe Solutions raises £50m to fund UK and international growth

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Specialist well decommissioning services provider Well-Safe Solutions has today announced the completion of its third investment round, raising £50 million for the company.

Well-Safe Solutions will use the funds for the purchase of its third rig and to broaden the capabilities it offers to clients around the world.

The funding round was led by MW&L Capital Partners, a London-based principal investment and financial advisory firm, with participation from a consortium of new and existing investors.

This latest investment brings the total capital raised by the company to over £150m.

Phil Milton, Chief Executive Officer of Well-Safe Solutions, said: “This further investment demonstrates our strong investor support, enabling ongoing growth here in the UK as well as delivering the next stage of Well-Safe’s international growth.

“The capital raised in previous investment rounds has been instrumental in enabling the company to put in place a world-class portfolio of bespoke well plug and abandonment (P&A) assets, backed by expert onshore and offshore teams.

“These investments are now bearing fruit thanks to recent contract wins and workscopes throughout the North Sea for our rigs and well engineering teams.

“As we continue to build upon Well-Safe’s operational record, we are looking forward to exporting this model to new markets, which have expressed an interest in our collaborative, multi-well, multi-operator approach to well decommissioning.”

The announcement of new funding is the latest development in a continuing period of growth for the business.

Well-Safe was recently awarded its first contract with Ithaca Energy for the Well-Safe Protector jack up rig, which will be used to decommission several wells located in the Southern North Sea. The business also announced the acquisition of the ex-Awilco Drilling WilPhoenix semi-submersible rig, which is to be renamed the Well-Safe Defender.

The Aberdeen-based company is building on this positive momentum, with over 100 new employees joining the company in the past 12 months.

Alasdair Locke, Chairman and majority shareholder of Well-Safe Solutions, said: “Congratulations to Phil and his team for the continuing success in the execution of our plan.

“This financing allows a step change in the capabilities of Well-Safe Solutions, enabling us to be competitive on a global basis. I’m grateful for the support from existing and new investors.”

Julian Metherell, a founding partner of MW&L Capital Partners, added: “We are delighted to continue to partner with Well-Safe to build a world-class decommissioning business.

“We are well supported by existing investors and delighted to have attracted new investors who share our vision for the business.”

Well-Safe Protector to undertake Ithaca Energy North Sea well decommissioning

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Well-Safe Solutions have been contracted by Ithaca Energy to plug and abandon (P&A) six wells on the Anglia Platform in the Southern North Sea, approximately 55km from the UK mainland.

The contract – for an undisclosed sum – will see the Aberdeen-based well decommissioning specialists provide project management, well engineering and all managed delivery services for the project.

The Well-Safe Protector harsh environment jack-up rig is nearing the end of extensive technical preparations and will mobilise to the field in late summer 2022.

Matt Jenkins, Chief Operating Officer at Well-Safe Solutions, said: “This full-service contract is further vindication of our operating model and allows Ithaca to realise the benefits of Well-Safe’s extensive experience in the Southern North Sea.

“Well-Safe delivers environmentally-friendly and cost-effective well decommissioning operations, unlocking key learnings over multi-well, multi-operator campaigns.

“We are thrilled to have reached this agreement with the team behind Ithaca Energy, who have entrusted Well-Safe with this important project, allowing them to maintain resources on their production delivery workscopes and significant capital projects.”

An option to P&A an additional three subsea wells is also available during 2023.

Jane Eddie, Bid Manager, added: “We have worked closely with Ithaca Energy to design a contract which meets their needs and – crucially – those of Offshore Energies UK, the North Sea Transition Authority and other industry stakeholders.”

“Our team is uniquely positioned to support Ithaca Energy with their decommissioning obligations, as we are the first UK-based company with owner-operated rigs to exclusively perform well P&A operations.”

Commenting, Ricky Thomson, OEUK Decommissioning Manager, said: “Decommissioning has a crucial role to play in helping the UK deliver its net zero ambitions, as outlined in the North Sea Transition Deal. The UK’s decommissioning industry has an incredibly exciting future ahead, and projects like this will be vitally important to realising those ambitions.

“We welcome today’s announcement by Well-Safe Solutions. We wish the project the very best of success moving forward.”

This contract announcement follows recent news of Well-Safe Solutions’ purchase of the WilPhoenix semi-submersible rig from Awilco Drilling. The rig will now undergo conversion for well P&A activity and has been renamed the Well-Safe Defender.

Well-Safe Solutions announces agreement to add third rig to fleet

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Well decommissioning specialists Well-Safe Solutions have today announced that they have reached an agreement with Awilco Drilling to acquire the WilPhoenix semi-submersible rig – Well-Safe Solutions’ third asset acquisition in three years.

Built in 1983, the WilPhoenix is an established presence in the North Sea, having been extensively refurbished and upgraded in 2016. Well-Safe Solutions expect to take delivery of the rig in June 2022 and will carry out optimisation and recertification requirements for future well plug and abandonment (P&A) activity.

The rig acquisition is expected to create around 100 jobs in a variety of onshore and offshore roles, in addition to the 231 personnel already employed by Well-Safe Solutions.

Phil Milton, Chief Executive Officer at Well-Safe Solutions, said: “The addition of our second semi-submersible rig, to be known as the Well-Safe Defender, is a landmark achievement for the business.

“Strong demand for our other dedicated P&A semi-submersible rig, the Well-Safe Guardian, demonstrates a clear business case for the need for further specialised assets. We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Awilco Drilling to integrate this well-regarded asset into our portfolio.

“The addition of a third specialist decommissioning rig enables Well-Safe Solutions to deliver upon our vision of being the industry’s trusted well decommissioning service partner of choice, and is in line with the company’s long-term growth strategy.”

Neil Ferguson, Operations Manager at Well-Safe Solutions, added: “The WilPhoenix has a strong track record and is the right candidate to undergo conversion for well P&A.

“We are dedicated to assisting the global energy sector in the transition to net zero and reconfiguring an existing asset for decommissioning activity enables our clients to take advantage of considerable financial savings and environmental benefits.”

Well-Safe Solutions is the first UK company with its own assets to provide a Tier 1 well decommissioning service focused exclusively on P&A, with the Aberdeen-headquartered company owning and operating the Well-Safe Guardian semi-submersible and Well-Safe Protector jack-up rig.

The WilPhoenix is expected to enter service with its new owners as the Well-Safe Defender in late 2022.

Well-Safe Solutions generates £3.3m decommissioning savings

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Well decommissioning specialists Well-Safe Solutions have realised cost savings of £3.3m for a North Sea client, driven by an operational commitment to safe, smart and efficient methods of working.

The announcement follows a comprehensive review of rig and well operations, planning, logistics, and financials to deliver a holistic understanding of operational benefits.

The largest individual saving of £942,000 was suggested by Well-Safe’s well engineering team at the planning phase. It was calculated that the abandonment barrier on one well could be successfully created via two smaller milled windows, resulting in both a reduction of operational risk and milling time.

Patrick Nesbitt, Project Manager at Well-Safe Solutions, added: “The vast majority of savings were realised through considerable time savings, unlocked via innovative ways of working and the experience and communication of our dedicated plug and abandonment (P&A) teams with the client.

“For example, though effective planning, we determined that it would be more cost and time-efficient to conduct make up and break out works in Great Yarmouth as opposed to Aberdeen. This straightforward assessment and material change resulted in a saving of over £150,000 for our client.

“We are delighted with the results of this analysis, which provides measurable validation of our ways of working and the tangible benefits it realises.”

In normal circumstances, wells to be decommissioned are abandoned sequentially, with wireline-based intervention carried out to install barriers and remove any hydrocarbons present in the wellbore (stage AB0). The tubing is then removed with the BOP installed, with abandonment barriers set in place (stages AB1 and AB2). Conductor cutting and recovery is then generally performed as a batch operation, as part of stage AB3.

Well-Safe managed to save the client 15 hours of operational activity every time the blow-out preventer (BOP) was off the well, by ‘hopping’ it between wells.

This avoided the removal of choke and kill hoses along with the bell nipple, which is normally a time-consuming process. This procedure enabled the high-pressure riser to be removed, the rig to be skidded to its new location, the tree to be removed, and the high-pressure riser to be reinstalled – all while the BOP remained suspended, increasing the value of savings for the client.

James Richards, Well Abandonment Director at Well-Safe Solutions, said: “Our desire to reduce the cost of decommissioning for our clients is built around the efficient capturing, retention and sharing of knowledge between our personnel, our clients and project stakeholders.

“As part of a comprehensive ‘lessons learned’ process, we reviewed operations following the conclusion of the engineering, contractor management and logistics services we provided.

“These learnings are directly applied to the planning phase of subsequent projects, delivering safer and efficient operations and ensuring greater collaboration between teams. This enables us to share best practice across the industry, driving collaboration while streamlining both costs and time.”

Well-Safe Solutions’ safe, smart and efficient way of working enables the company to realise significant cost savings on behalf of the client, without compromising operational or personal safety.


The benefits of SIMOPS

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Drew Duncan, Senior Well Abandonment Engineer at Well-Safe Solutions, summarises the operational benefits of SIMOPS – as seen during the Schooner platform decommissioning campaign.

Simultaneous Operations (SIMOPS) are multiple activities carried out at the same time in a single location, often in close proximity to one another. The risks of SIMOPS working on a live marine asset, often in a small workspace, requires careful mitigation so that personnel and assets are kept safe.

The Schooner platform, operated by Norwegian operator DNO, is located in the Southern Basin of the UKCS. A twelve-slot Normally Unmanned Installation (NUI), 10 of the 12 slots have wells still open to the reservoir. One slot has a previously abandoned well and the last remains empty.

In typical scenarios, wells are abandoned sequentially, with wireline-based intervention carried out to install barriers and remove any hydrocarbons present in the wellbore (stage AB0). The tubing is then removed with the BOP installed, with abandonment barriers set in place (stages AB1 and AB2). Conductor cutting and recovery is then generally performed as a batch operation as part of stage AB3.

Digital slickline operations

In line with Well-Safe Solutions’ ‘safe, smart and efficient’ operational commitment, we proposed a programme of SIMOPS batch digital slickline operations to significantly improve operational efficiency and reduce the total cost of abandonment. This enabled eight of the 11 wells to be entered and abandoned to AB0 status, with two digital slickline units operated at the same time. One unit worked from the drill floor through a high-pressure wireline riser, while the second carried out operations from the Schooner platform’s weather deck.

Due to the tight space constraints of the weather deck, Well-Safe’s expert engineering team led the design, fabrication and installation of moveable beams installed below the drill floor, which supported the lubricator above multiple well slots and maximised the length of lubricator available for maximum toolstring length.

An unusual challenge in this scope was the discovery that one of the wells contained 14,000ft of slickline above a toolstring; present since 2006 when previous attempts at fishing had been unsuccessful. Peak mobilised their heavy-duty fishing system, with approximately 11,575ft of wire successfully removed over 24 runs. This successfully cleared the tubing and allowed access for the deep-set plug.

As we weren’t sure exactly how long it would take for the execution of fishing operations, our digital slickline SIMOPS enabled three other wells to be entered, abandoned and suspended concurrently. This not only delivered a considerable time saving for the client, but crucially was able to be carried out with no detriment to operational safety.

Collaborative working

A key tenet of Well-Safe Solutions’ offering is its dedication to collaborative working, enabling lessons learned to be shared throughout the industry. Our drive to reduce the cost of decommissioning for our client led to the use of several specialist technologies.

Two digital slickline units were used to support SIMOPS, using industry-leading digital slickline services. This method enabled execution to be streamlined by combining two services into one cable conveyance. Real-time services including performing mechanical jarring, explosive and non-explosive plug-setting and utilising tubing cutters.

In addition, this technology enabled a higher level of operational efficiency through reduced equipment handling, as there was no longer a requirement for additional rig-ups between conventional slickline and e-line (or wireline) equipment. Wellbore data  was also enhanced by the digital slickline system’s ability to provide real-time toolstring pressure and temperature data.

Pressure wave valves provided by Oilenco enabled an additional run to be removed from the scope, following deployment of the blow-out preventer (BOP) and pressure-cycling of the valve. These intelligent practices further reinforced the time savings achieved by the SIMOPS carried out earlier in the project.

Every little helps

The use of SIMOPS was not the only optimisation measure used on the project.  With operational efficiency one of the central goals of the scope, Well-Safe Solutions was able to halve the time the BOP was off the well, by ‘hopping’ it between wells. This avoided the removal of choke and kill hoses along with the bell nipple, which is normally a time-consuming process. This procedure enabled the high-pressure riser to be removed, the rig to be skidded to its new location, the tree to be removed, and the high-pressure riser to be reinstalled – all while the BOP remained suspended, increasing the value of savings for the client.

For NUIs such as the Schooner platform, day trips using helicopters for limited-duration work campaigns are the norm. Lack of daylight, as well as instances of poor weather, can create considerable difficulties in enabling access to and egress from the platform. Air-gapping operations, where surface well barriers are proved and flowlines are removed, were originally planned to be carried out ahead of the drilling rig’s arrival to the platform by way of a helicopter or walk-to-work campaign. Well-Safe proposed to DNO that this operation could be safely carried out as SIMOPS, with the air-gapping carried out simultaneously to the concurrent batch digital slickline activities.

Safe, smart, efficient working

Drew Duncan, Senior Well Abandonment Engineer, Well-Safe Solutions

The SIMOPS measures carried out have had a measurable benefit on not only the client’s bottom line, but also their operational efficiency. We are proud of the work we’ve done, not only because we’ve enabled safer, smarter and more efficient ways of working, but also because of our collaborative approach to sharing best practice across the industry.

SIMOPS methods enable Well-Safe Solutions to realise significant cost savings to benefit the client and the wider decommissioning industry, with no detriment to operational or personal safety.

For more information on Well-Safe Solutions’ expertise in SIMOPS, please get in touch with us here.