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Rig Recycling

Two tugboats pull the Perdido spar from Texas shore to Alaminos canyon, where it

Two tugboats pull the Perdido spar from Texas shore to Alaminos canyon, where it was secured to the seafloor in ~2450 metres of water. Photo: Shell

By Ashley Fowler, Peter Macreadie & David Booth

Some 6500 oil rigs are due for decommissioning by 2025 at a cost of $100 billion. Would they be more useful as artificial reefs?

Ashley Fowler, Peter Macreadie and David Booth are with the Fish Ecology Laboratory at the University of Technology, Sydney.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Ask anyone whether obsolete oil industry structures should be left in the ocean, and the answer would likely be a resounding “Absolutely not!”. These large mechanical structures, including platforms, rigs and pipelines, are an unnatural intrusion into a pristine environment. Add to this the potential for active rigs to cause environmental catastrophes such as the Deep Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year and it’s no wonder they are considered necessary evils.

So, when rigs reach the end of their production lives, an alternative to complete removal is rarely considered. However, one alternative could see rigs playing an unexpected role in the conservation of vulnerable deep sea communities.

In a recent review article published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, we identified the global issues surrounding the use of rigs as artificial reefs in the deep sea, specifically. So, what are the ecological risks and benefits of this option?

An Overwhelming Issue
The ever-increasing need for fossil fuels has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of rigs deployed throughout the world’s oceans over the past few decades. There are currently more than 7500 rigs in operation, and all these rigs will eventually become obsolete because oil and gas reserves are finite.

In keeping with the general...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.