Shell will shortly be seeking final approval to begin decommissioning the Brent oil and gas field.

The field, north east of the Shetland Islands, has produced about 10% of all UK North Sea oil and gas since production began in 1976.

Its four platforms and their related infrastructure are the subject of a planned decommissioning programme over the coming decade.

A 30-day public consultation on Shell's plans to start the process will begin on Monday February 16.

The energy giant is proposing to lift the 23,500-tonne top section of the Brent Delta platform in the first stage of the process.

At its peak in 1982, the Brent field produced more than half a million barrels a day - enough to provide energy for about half of UK homes that year.

Brent Delta ceased production in 2011 and Brent Alpha and Bravo stopped in November. Production from the field continues through Brent Charlie.

Shell UK is a joint owner of the field with Esso Exploration and Production UK.

The company recommends removing the Brent Delta's topside in one piece using a specialist vessel and delivering it to Teesside-based decommissioning company Able UK.

Alistair Hope, director of Shell's Brent decommissioning project, said: "The Brent field has been a prolific national asset for many years, creating and sustaining thousands of jobs and contributing billions of pounds to the UK government.

"The engineering and planning skills which led to the discovery and subsequent successful production of oil and gas over four decades are essential during decommissioning, which is the natural next stage of the field's life. We hope many people will play an active part in the consultation."

Shell said a second decommissioning programme for the remaining infrastructure in the Brent field will be submitted when it is confident the proposals are "safe, technically achievable, environmentally sound and financially responsible".

Subject to a separate consultation, it will cover the decommissioning of Brent Delta's legs, three other installations, 140 wells and 28 pipelines.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "The industry pushed the boundaries of science and engineering to access North Sea oil and gas.

"Having made massive profits over the last few decades, it's only right that it should push those limits once again to clean up their potentially hazardous legacy and protect the marine environment

"Given the enormous size of the rigs and the iconic nature of the Brent field, this decommissioning will be watched closely and should therefore be aiming to set the highest possible benchmarks for the rest of the industry to follow.

"If done right, then it could open the door for Scotland to lead a new multi-billion pound, global decommissioning industry."