sail-world.com
 
 
News Home Cruising Photo Gallery Video Gallery
Sail-World.com : Disused oil rigs to living reefs - Photo feature
Disused oil rigs to living reefs - Photo feature

'Fish swim through risers at High Island 389-A around 100 miles southeast of Galveston, Texas.'    Andy Burlingham / Black Dog Divers

In the Gulf of Mexico disused oil rigs have become home to millions of ocean creatures, but hundreds of habitats could soon be wiped out under US rules. In this breath-taking photo feature we chart the death of an oil rig and the birth of vibrant new reefs, which environmental campaigners are fighting to save.

A sea of iron rigs sit idly in the Gulf of Mexico. With not a vessel floating by or an oil worker in sight, these platforms appear to be abandoned, but they are not alone.

Beneath the surface, schools of rockfish, garibaldi and angel fish swim between the risers that are themselves encrusted with coral, sponge, algae, sea urchins, crabs and snails. Like castles in an aquarium, disused platforms are sprawling with underwater residents. But, these creatures shouldn't make themselves too comfortable, for their habitats may soon be demolished.

Of the 650 idle relics in the Gulf of Mexico, around 158 are set to be removed in 2012, a process which will almost certainly wipe out a huge proportion of the marine population. Oil and gas companies have the option to avoid this situation by partially removing or towing their rigs in place under artificial reefs programmes offered across all coastal US areas.

So why are so many of these firms, and indeed policy makers, choosing to ignore this lifeline?

Thirty years after it was built and just months after it was abandoned, the High Island 389-A rig will be removed under plans put forward by the US Department of Interior. The department cites concerns about the potential for spills from this well, located within the 56-square mile Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

Critics may find it ironic then that this same department, led by Ken Salazar, wants to blast the High Island structure with explosives, killing thousands of fish and damaging delicate seafloor ecologies in the process.

Eugene Island 331A platform being partially removed in the Gulf of Mexico -  Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries  

According to not-for-profit corporation EcoRigs, the Gulf of Mexico will lose a third of its 3,600 offshore oil and gas platforms in the next five years, which will destroy an estimated 1,875 acres of coral reef habitat and seven billion invertebrates. But, several actions are underway to ensure that removal is just an option and that artificial reefing will become a more popular course of action.

Explosive removals are estimated to kill 800 fish -  Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries  

An alternative to platform removal is to convert it into a reef through the Rigs-to-Reef (RTR) programme developed by the former Minerals Management Service, now the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Reefing involves one of three methods, including 'tow in place', where the structure is severed from the sea floor and moved into a state-approved location.

Many disused platforms in the GoM are home to Garibaldi fish -  Bob Wohlers / Lovelab  

Partial removal is also an option, which involves removing the top portion of the submerged platform and either placing it on to the sea floor or towing it to another site. The third option, 'toppling', involves explosives to sever the base of the structure below the mud line.

EcoRigs argues, however, that toppling an offshore platform over as an artificial reef does not prevent the mortality of most protected marine invertebrates.

These artificial reef balls were dropped around oil platforms in Lake Pontchartrain to promote fish growth -  Nathan Arthur  

In its 'Platform Removal Brief' issued in July 2011, EcoRigs urges the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) to consider alternate uses for retired platforms, such as sustainable fisheries and production of renewable ocean energy.

The organisation argues that evaluating these options could lead to platform preservation and avoid the destruction of the ecosystem and inhabitants.

The federal government is bound by environmental laws to protect coral reef organisms and reef communities -  Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries  

EcoRigs hopes to encourage the enactment of environmental laws to prevent the removal of disused oil rigs. These laws, which federal agencies are bound by to protect marine life, include the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act - an amendment to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act - which requires the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to protect essential fish habitats (EFH). The government is also obligated under the National Environmental Policy Act to consider the environmental impacts of removing and blasting dormant oil and gas platforms.

Divers periodically stop at rigs which have turned into lush ecosystems -  JamesForte / Lovelab  

Currently, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is seeking to recognise offshore platforms in the area as EFHs, which will bring into play the Sustainable Fisheries Act. The governor of Texas Rick Perry, along with state fisheries managers and sport-fishing groups, has asked the Department of Interior to re-evaluate the current rules which give owners of nonproducing platforms one to five years to remove them, depending on where they are located.
They are seeking at least a delay in implementing outright removals and the amendment of the 2012 Farm Bill to help conserve marine wildlife residing on or around these structures.

If platforms are left in place, operators would accrue environmental compliance expenses, as they often scrape off thousands of marine invertebrates during routine maintenanc -  Andy Burlingham / Black Dog Divers  

But, there are no assurances that any structure deemed as an EFH will be turned into an artificial reef, as the offshore operator who owns the structure must make the final decision. If the operator decides not to convert the rig, BOEMRE regulation must then dictate that the structure is removed.

The US Department of Interior gives owners of nonproducing platforms one to five years to remove them -  Andy Burlingham / Black Dog Divers  
So why do many oil and gas companies choose not to participate in Rigs-to-Reefs programmes? One would think that offshore operators would want to save on removal, transportation, salvage and recycle costs.

The problem is oil and gas regulations state that the original owner of the platform is liable for that structure until it is removed. This would mean owners would need to take care of day to day maintenance and any accidents and insurance if the platform is left in place.

Many marine creatures vanish after oil companies opt out of maintaining their dormant platforms -  Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries  

The main concern US federal agencies have with keeping dormant rigs in place is that the cost of environmental compliance associated with producing oil will increase. If EFH and NEPA environmental laws are applied to the oil and gas industry, operators would have to pay for compliance expenses when they perform routine maintenance.

According to EcoRigs, the 'cradle to grave' liability issue is responsible for the destruction of thousands of acres of coral reef habitat and the mortality of billions of protected marine organisms.

Original article


by Sarah Blackman

  

Click on the FB Like link to post this story to your FB wall

http://www.sail-world.com/index.cfm?nid=101810

3:13 PM Thu 6 Sep 2012GMT


Click here for printer friendly version
Click here to send us feedback or comments about this story.







News - USA and the World

































Starboard Hatteras Wave Jam day 5 by American Windsurfing Tour,


















470 Men and Women Worlds - Champions decided in Santander by International 470 Class Association,
















ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander: 470 awards images by Sail-World.com
ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander - 470 medal race images by Jesus Renedo
Annapolis-to-Newport Race - 'What to Expect' Seminar to take place
Royal Cup Marina Ibiza - No racing on penultimate day
Belcher takes record fifth 470 World Championship
ISAF Sailing World Championships - Santander - Day 8 video highlights
2014 Great Lakes Team Racing Championship about to set off
2014 Etchells North American Championship - Day 1
2014 U.S. Multihull Championship - Day 1
2014 Chicago Match Cup - Repechage top four determined in final flight
J/24 World Championship - 35th anniversary preview
470 Men and Women Worlds - Santander medal race line-up confirmed
ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander - Day 8 images by Sail-World.com
Royal Cup Marina Ibiza - Quantum Racing stumbles in coastal race
ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander - Americans ready for 470 medal races
ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander: Action ramps up with end zone in sight
Big Boat Series - It's not the size, it's the length
ISAF Sailing World Championships Santander - Double French RS:X gold
ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander - Day 8 images by Sailing Energy
ISAF Sailing Worlds - Finn leaders emerge from shifty Santander breeze
ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander - RS:X winner images by Barbara Sanchez   
ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander - Rio 2016 470 spots awarded   
52 Super Series 2015 - Outlook looks hot for the 52 Super Series   
Starboard Hatteras Wave Jam - Another early start on day 4   
ISAF Sailing World - First entry leaves sailor's reputation in tatters   
2014 Chicago Match Cup - Four go through to quarter finals   
470 Men and Women Worlds - Champs take over leaderboard   
ISAF Sailing World Champ - Buckingham finishes with career-best result   
America's Cup: Oracle's Larry Ellison to step down as CEO   
Classic Yacht Regatta - Sonny takes top classic prize   
ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander - Buckingham finishes with career best   
ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander - Rio 2016 RS:X spots claimed   
ISAF Sailing Worlds - Leaderboards shaping up in Santander + Video   
ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander - Giles Scott continues to extend lead   
ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander - Day 7 images by Sailing Energy   
ISAF Sailing Worlds - Laser and Radial winner images by Jesus Renedo   
ISAF Sailing Worlds, Santander - Medal Race images by Sail-World.com   
ISAF Sailing Worlds - Dutch dominate Laser and Radial in Santander   
Royal Cup Marina Ibiza - Quantum Racing more than doubles overall lead   
J/24 World Championship - Excitement builds for Newport racing   


For this week's complete news stories select    Last 7 Days
   Search All News
For last month's complete news stories select    Last 30 Days
   Archive News







Sail-World.com  


















Switch Default Region to:

Social Media

Asia

Australia

Canada

Europe

New Zealand

United Kingdom


http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/Twitter_logo_small.png http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/FaceBook-icon.png  http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/RSS-Icon.png

United States

Cruising Northern

Cruising Southern

MarineBusiness World

PowerBoat World

FishingBoating World

 

Contact

Commercial

News

Search

Contact Us

Advertisers Information

Submit news/events

Search Stories/Text

Feedback

Advertisers Directory

Newsletter Archive

Photo Gallery

 

Banner Advertising Details

Newsletter Subscribe

Video Gallery

Policies

 

 

 

Privacy Policy

 

 


Cookie Policy

 

 



This site and its contents are © Copyright TetraMedia and/or the original author, photographer etc. All Rights Reserved.  Photographs are copyright by law.  If you wish to use or buy a photograph contact the photographer directly.
XLXL NEW US
LocalAds   DE  ES  FR  IT