By 2040, more than 2500 offshore oil and gas structures will cease operations globally, and will require decommissioning at a cost of up to US$13 billion per year. In Australian waters alone, there is an estimated 8160km of pipelines, 1500km of umbilicals, 1000 subsea wells, 57 platforms and 500 other structures.
To remove or not to remove?
As operations move towards their end-of-field-life, regulators and industry must decide the fate of wells, pipelines, platforms and other structures at sea. Decommissioning options include leaving in place, complete removal, partial removal, toppling, relocation or transforming into an artificial reef.
These structures must be decommissioned in a way that minimises environmental impacts and risks to a level as low as reasonably practicable, in accordance with legislation.
In-situ decommissioning, where some infrastructure is left in the marine environment following the end of its productive life, has been promoted as an option that can deliver ecological benefits from the establishment of artificial reefs, reduced costs and improved human safety for operators.
AIMS research has shown oil and gas structures provide novel habitat for many marine species. However, there is uncertainty about the impact of pollution from these structures, and how their removal, partial removal or other decommissioning scenarios may affect ecosystems and their processes, such as connectivity.
AIMS research on decommissioning
AIMS science delivers the environmental knowledge and innovation required to drive sound decision-making for sustainable decommissioning of offshore oil and gas infrastructure. We work with global research partners to address common knowledge gaps, and undertake decommissioning marine research projects in Australia’s north-west and south-east.
Using innovative approaches such as enhanced ROV surveys, we investigate how marine life interacts with oil and gas structures at local and regional scales. Understanding the influences on marine life such as fish, ecological connectivity and contaminant impacts in marine ecosystems is critical for informed regulatory and industry decisions on decommissioning.
Examples of our research include projects supported by the National Decommissioning Research Initiative.
We work in partnership with industry to undertake innovative research to understand the role and value of oil and gas structures in marine ecosystems. Our comprehensive decommissioning research is enabled by wide-ranging expertise, industrial-scale infrastructure, innovative technology and extensive national and international collaboration networks.
AIMS-industry partnerships enable rigorous scientific data to be collected rapidly, without impeding on industry offshore operations. AIMS’ purpose-built stereo-video cameras and range of sensors and sampling equipment (eDNA) can be used to augment industry ROVs and collect scientific information around infrastructure. For example, AIMS has undertaken enhanced surveys of Santos platform jackets near Varanus Island, north-west Australia.