Bringing the Ocean to Society
17 May 2017
Man-made offshore installations: should they stay or should they go?
New European Marine Board Policy Brief assesses the role of marine science in reducing the environmental and economic impact of decommissioning man-made offshore installations.

"Decommissioning of offshore man-made installation: Taking an ecosystem approach" is the latest European Marine Board (EMBPolicy Brief and can be downloaded here. The publication is an official output of the European Marine Board, a strategic pan-European Forum of 33 Member Organisations including key marine research performing institutes, funding agencies and university consortia. We would be very grateful if you could disseminate this Policy Brief document/press release widely within your networks.

A recent study suggested that the total cost of full decommissioning of the oil and gas installations in the North Sea alone for the period 2015 to 2040 will be between US$70 and US$82 billion. The numbers of installations requiring decommissioning is also set to increase dramatically as renewables begin reaching the end of their operational lifespan. Globally, industry and governments are embracing different approaches from full removal to the production of artificial reefs. A new European Marine Board Policy Brief assesses the latest developments and calls for decommissioning practices to take advantage of marine scientific research as a tool for developing best practice and longer-term environmental management plans.

For the oil and gas industry, this is the start of a new phase with much greater scientific collaboration. The Policy Brief highlights INSITE, a long-term environmental project led by leading energy companies aimed at improving marine ecosystem knowledge for evidence-based decision-making, environmental planning and impact assessments. Such novel approaches are set to mutually benefit industry, governments, research and global marine ecosystems. It is also crucial to discuss best practice now in light of the rapid expansion of offshore renewable energy and the need for economic, social and ecological sustainability.

Ultimately, appropriate decisions need to be made in the very near future regarding the decommissioning of oil and gas and renewable energy structures. At present, there remains a need for more scientific research to better inform the decision-making process regarding their fate.