International Experts Recommend Flexibility in Offshore Platform Removal Policies
A study published in the July 3, 2018 edition of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment suggests that policies pertaining to the complete and mandatory removal of offshore infrastructure, such as oil and gas platforms and wind turbines, should be reconsidered. According to the study, almost 95% of experts from 10 countries across academia, government and industry believe that more flexible, case-by-case, approaches to removal policies are actually better for the marine environment.
Among the experts interviewed for the study was BOEM’s Donna Schroeder, a marine ecologist and co-author of the study, based in the bureau’s Pacific region office. With her ongoing research on natural reefs and fish productivity at oil and gas platforms off California, Donna’s extensive scientific knowledge provided insight into how offshore platforms provide a rich, biodiverse habitat for various fishes and other marine life. Her portfolio of research served as the foundation of scientific support for approved legislation in the State of California that allows a case-by-case consideration of a rigs-to-reefs alternative for decommissioned offshore oil and gas platforms off the Golden State.
The study, which focuses on offshore infrastructure in the North Sea, notes that currently more than 7500 offshore oil and gas platforms will end their production life over the next few decades, with growing offshore wind projects nearing end-of life decommissioning in future decades to come. In most regions of the world, offshore infrastructure must be completely removed and the seabed returned to its original state after production life has ceased. The study points out that these policies do not take into account that over 20-30 years of operation, these offshore structures often develop into a thriving artificial reef teeming with biodiversity. Additionally, over time these habitats form an ecosystem around them that supports a wide variety of marine life.
On the basis of the findings, study authors make a series of recommendations to direct revisions to existing North Sea decommissioning policies. For a list of the recommendations and details on the study, go to the University of Technology Sydney news release: Mandatory offshore rig removal needs a rethink, environmental experts say