A&D – Afgang E2011, del 1 – Footprint of the oil – Baggrund, motivation & vision

Dette indlæg er det første i rækken, hvor vi vil følge Jacob Bjerre Mikkelsen, Ida Sofie Gøtzsche Lange og Marion Højris Jensen, som skriver afgang i urban design efteråret 2011. Indlægget vil beskrive deres baggrund og motivation for valg af problematik, samt visionen for afgangsprojektet.

Af Jacob Bjerre Mikkelsen, Ida Sofie Gøtzsche Lange og Marion Højris Jensen

A World of Oil

The oil industry has dominated the world for the last 150 years. It has brought economical growth and technological advances but also resulted in war and environmental pollution.

The size of the oil industry is difficult to comprehend. Oil is produced all over the world and society is dependent on the black liquid. As Frank Esmann puts it: We are all ‘Hydrocarbon Humans’ – unknowingly oil dependent humans (Esmann, 2011).

The ‘Oil World’ that on one hand has had huge impact on the world has at the same time been closed land for a person living in the ‘The Everyday-World’. It has formed a network, inaccessible and somehow mysterious for a detached spectator. Procedures tied to ‘The Oil World’ are in fact isolated and alienated from ‘The hydrocarbon human’ (Fogh, 2011).

These years the world is changing due to 2 main factors: Oil peak and Sustainable discourse. Perhaps this shift will bring ‘The Oil World’ and ‘The Everyday-world’ closer together?

“(…)So we have spent almost half of the oil that is available. But the part that is pumped up now, is also the most accessible and therefore the cheapest. In many old and closed wells there is still plenty of oil, not extracted because it is too inconvenient and expensive.” (Danish Technology Council, 2004)

Oil peak

Despite inexhaustible fields of oil the fields easy to reach are decreasing. This means that the industry has to invent new advanced drilling methods which increase the price of oil. All in all the oil production is peaking worldwide. In 2006 the Worlds currently producing crude oil fields peaked and whether one count fields yet to be discovered or not it is a matter of time when the whole industry will become history. (Birol, 2011)

The peak means, that the industry even now begins to close down certain structures, simply because they are not useable for pumping up oil anymore.

Structures of the oil industry

These years oil production is peaking and new technology is bringing alternative energy sources. This shift causes plenty of physical structures from oil extraction and oil production over oil distribution to oil use and oil decomposition not to be used for oil – now and in the future.

Thus the ‘Oil Age’ is reaching its end. The oil industry has had its Great Period and the physical constructions – both directly and indirectly related to oil production – which lose their function must either be disposed (degraded to more or less recyclable materials) or enter a transformation to new use.

Chris Skrebowski, editor of Petroleum Review, has in 2005 pointed at the need of fast action: “The problem is that the peak, which I think is 2008, is tomorrow in planning terms.” (Skrebowski, 2005).

Offshore rigs in the North Sea

Amongst structures left over from the oil industry 600 offshore rigs in the North Sea are to be decommissioned within the next 30 years – simply because the oil fields in The North Sea has peaked in 2004/2005  (OCD, 2011).

The first platforms were built in the 1970es and have a lifetime of 30 years which can be extended approximately 10 years through renovations (Blach, 2011). This means that the oldest oil rigs in The North Sea are worn-out today and unfit for pumping up oil.

The decrease in the oil industry generate a coast near decommissioning industry with an average decommissioning cost of 100-200 million Danish crowns for each platform (Schmidt, 2004). The competition between decommissioning players in Denmark, Scotland, The Netherlands and Norway is strong (Andersen, 2007).

The owners of the platforms are imposed to remove inactive platforms but which company manages the decommissioning and in which country depends on the best offer, the best facilities and free harbour capacity (Andersen, 2007).

When the platforms are to be decommissioned they are either being split up offshore or carried into port. Here they are divided by materials and electronics either to be deposed or melted down and reused as raw materials (Schmidt, 2004). The majority of each platform has no value for neither recycling nor scrap.

Research question

“How can we give an alternative to the current plan for decommissioning offshore rigs in The North Sea by retrofitting the platforms to facilitate new experience spaces?”

  • How can the platforms come into use as places despite their previous context-weak conception?
  • How can the project help making the invisible ‘Oil World’ visible in the everyday-world and unite the two?
  • How can the platforms through this project asses the image of being ‘bad guys’ and redeem it?
  • How can the project support a decommissioning strategy over time?


90 % of the Danish offshore industries operate from the West Coast city of Denmark, Esbjerg. This makes Esbjerg a leading industrial core for the oil industry in Denmark as well as around The North Sea.

Esbjerg was founded as an industrial harbour city in the 1800s to enable exportation of agricultural products to England (Just, 2011). Due to ‘the Danish oil success‘, Esbjerg has developed into a city with plenty of cultural attractions and is today the fifth largest city in Denmark (Hahn-Pedersen, 2011). The harbour industry, still active, defines the identity of Esbjerg and carry an important industrial cultural heritage. The atmosphere of the city is tough and industrial:

“Esbjerg has had a reputation for being a raw, windswept port city, where culture and intellectual life was only passing through, and where smacks were loose in the nightlife” (Madsen, 2011)

Amongst the head players in Esbjerg is OCD (Offshore Center Danmark), the drilling company Mærsk, the project engineering companies SEMCO Maritime A/S, Promecon and Rambøll Oil & Gas who specialize in environmentally correct decomposition of oil rigs. These companies gain work and growth to the city of Esbjerg and have a great interest in getting the greatest possible number of decommissioning assignments. 400 of the 600 offshore rigs in the North Sea are of a size interesting for the Danish decommissioning industry in Esbjerg (Blach, 2011)


For the offshore rig-project it is the aim to show the architectural potentials and unique atmosphere of offshore rigs in the urban context of Esbjerg. These values should enhance the identity of Esbjerg as an industrial city and exhibit the industrial heritage of the ‘Oil World’. Thus it is the aim to make a noticeable project that can merit being the first Danish point on the European Route of Industrial Heritage.

An innovative strategy for decommissioning oil rigs shall improve Esbjerg’s ability to compete in the decommissioning industry World Wide. Equally the project shall generate increased value for Esbjerg as a spectacular elaboration of oil rigs – locally for the citizens and internationally for tourists. Thus the new place shall combine an active decommissioning industry with a historical found industry of tourism in a unique manner.

The project shall in other words unite the present quantitative values of offshore rigs as items for the decommissioning industry in Esbjerg and the qualitative values of offshore rigs as undiscovered platforms for recreation and experiences.

The retrofitting project shall appear as an aesthetic footprint of the oil.

One Comment on “A&D – Afgang E2011, del 1 – Footprint of the oil – Baggrund, motivation & vision”

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