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Highly recommended by the Offshore-Environment. Decommissioning, abandonment and removal off obsolete offshore installations by Stanislav Patintranslation by Elena Cascio based on "Environmental Impact of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry" Below you will find a brief overview of decommissioning, abandonment and removal off offshore oil and gas installation, including a discussion on secondary use of obsolete structures and reef effects of offshore rigs and platforms.
To learn more about Environmental Impact of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry, click on the links at the end of the page. Abandonment options The extremely high cost of decommissioning and removal A brief on oil spill distribution offshore installations led to the need to revise some of the national and international regulations adopted about 40 years ago.
Such a revision covered, in particular, the requirement set by the Convention on the Continental Shelf Geneva, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Montego Bay, to remove abandoned offshore installations totally. At present, a more flexible and phased approach is used.
It suggests immediate and total removal of offshore structures mainly platforms weighing up to 4, tons in the areas with depths less than 75 m and after - at depths less than m. In deeper waters, removing only the upper parts from above the sea surface to 55 m deep and leaving the remaining structure in place is allowed.
The removed fragments can be either transported to the shore or buried in the sea. This approach considers the possibility of secondary use of abandoned offshore platforms for other purposes. From the technical-economic perspective, the larger the structures are and the deeper they are located, the more appropriate it is to leave them totally or partially intact.
In shallow waters, in contrast, total or partial structure removal makes more sense. The fragments can be taken to the shore, buried, or reused for some other purposes. From the fisheries perspective, any options when the structures or their fragments are left on the bottom may cause physical interference with fishing activities.
In these cases, the possibility of vessel and gear damages and corresponding losses does not disappear with termination of production activities in the area. Instead, abandoned structures pose the threat to fishing for many decades after the oil and gas operators leave the site.
The obsolete pipelines left on the bottom are especially dangerous in this respect. Their degradation and uncontrolled dissipation over wide areas may lead to the most unexpected situations occurring during bottom trawling in the most unexpected places. At the same time, national and international agreements about the decommissioning and abandonment of offshore installations refer mostly to large, fixed structures like drilling platforms.
The fate of underwater pipelines is still not affected by clear regulations. Secondary use of offshore fixed platforms The options of reusing abandoned platforms, their foundations, and other structures that are out of service have been actively discussed for the last 10 years.
An analysis of scientific potential of research stations permanently based on abandoned oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico revealed several promising directions of marine research at such stations [Dokken, ; Gardner, Wiebe, ].
These include studying regulation of the marine populations and coral reproduction, making underwater observations, monitoring the sea level, and collecting oceanographic and meteorological information within the framework of international projects. These platforms also could be used as bases for search and rescue operations or centers for waste processing and disposal [Side, ].
From the fisheries perspective, the most interesting projects are the ones aimed at converting the fixed marine structures into artificial reefs. Artificial reefs are known to be one of the most effective means of increasing the bioproductivity of coastal waters by providing additional habitats for marine life.
They are widely and effectively used on the shelves of many countries. The offshore structures can undoubtedly attract many species of migrating invertebrates and fish searching for food, shelter, and places to reproduce.
In particular, observations in the Gulf of Mexico revealed a strong positive correlation between the amount of oil platforms, growing since the s, and commercial fish catches in the region.
It became one of the reasons to suggest the positive impact of offshore oil and gas developments on the fish populations and stock.
Wide popularization of this fact led to the mass movement using the slogan "From rigs - to reefs" in the USA in the mids. However, further analyses of the fishing situation in the Gulf of Mexico showed that the growth of the fish catch in this case was connected not with increasing the total stock and abundance of commercial species but with their redistribution due to the reef effect of the platforms.
A critical point here was the use of static gear methods of fishing e. Besides, the areas around the platforms became very popular places of recreational and sport fishing. This also made a significant contribution to the total catch volumes.
Nothing similar was noted in the North Sea, where the number of oil platforms has also been growing since the s. However, the total catch did not correlate with this growth at all and even decreased.
This fact indicates the absence of any positive impact of the reef effect of oil platforms on the commercial fish catches in areas where the main way to fish is trawling.
At the same time, we should not forget about the danger that abandoned offshore oil platforms and their fragments pose to navigation and trawling fishing. With an abundance of such artificial reefs, this problem requires special regulations for negotiating the inevitable conflict of interests.
It requires mapping the area to indicate the locations of platforms, underwater pipelines, and other structures left on the bottom. The program also includes monitoring, collecting data, developing a warning system, and other activities necessary to control the situation and ensure safety in the region.
Explosive activities Complete or partial removal of steel or concrete fixed platforms that weigh thousands of tons is practically impossible without using explosive materials. This is very powerful, although short-term, impact on the marine environment and biota, which should not be neglected.An underground storage tank (UST) system is a tank (or a combination of tanks) and connected underground piping having at least 10 percent of their combined volume underground.
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