Environmental benefits of leaving offshore infrastructure in the ocean

Ashley M. Fowler*, Anne-Mette Jørgensen, Jon Christian Svendsen, Peter I. Macreadie, Daniel O. B. Jones, Arjen R. Boon, David J. Booth, Robin Brabant, Emily Callahan, Jeremy T. Claisse, Thomas G. Dahlgren, Steven Degraer, Quenton R. Dokken, Andrew B. Gill, David G. Johns, Robert J. Leewis, Han J. Lindeboom, Olof Linden, Roel May, Albertinka J. MurkGeir Ottersen, Donna M. Schroeder, Sunil M. Shastri, Jonas Teilmann, Victoria Todd, Gert Van Hoey, Jan Vanaverbeke, Joop W. P. Coolen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

The removal of thousands of structures associated with oil and gas development from the world’s oceans is well underway, yet the environmental impacts of this decommissioning practice remain unknown. Similar impacts will be associated with the eventual removal of offshore wind turbines. We conducted a global
survey of environmental experts to guide best decommissioning practices in the North Sea, a region with a substantial removal burden. In contrast to current regulations, 94.7% of experts (36 out of 38) agreed that a more flexible case-by-case approach to decommissioning could benefit the North Sea environment. Partial removal options were considered to deliver better environmental outcomes than complete removal for platforms, but both approaches were equally supported for wind turbines. Key considerations identified for
decommissioning were biodiversity enhancement, provision of reef habitat, and protection from bottom trawling, all of which are negatively affected by complete removal. We provide recommendations to guide the revision of offshore decommissioning policy, including a temporary suspension of obligatory removal
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Volume16
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)571-578
ISSN1540-9295
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Cite this

Fowler, A. M., Jørgensen, A-M., Svendsen, J. C., Macreadie, P. I., Jones, D. O. B., Boon, A. R., Booth, D. J., Brabant, R., Callahan, E., Claisse, J. T., Dahlgren, T. G., Degraer, S., Dokken, Q. R., Gill, A. B., Johns, D. G., Leewis, R. J., Lindeboom, H. J., Linden, O., May, R., ... Coolen, J. W. P. (2018). Environmental benefits of leaving offshore infrastructure in the ocean. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 16(10), 571-578. https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.1827