Rigs are typically retired in the United States after around 30 years of service, though some rigs have been decommissioned sooner and others have gone on to work past this benchmark. When rigs are decommissioned, they usually undergo an explosive demolition to sever some connections, leaving behind pollution and rendering the ocean floor damaged. Rig to reef conversion allows us to give old rigs a new purpose while helping our oceans become more productive environments for marine life that thrive on these man-made reefs.
What is a rig reef?
A rig reef is a decommissioned oil rig that has been repurposed as an artificial reef. Decommissioned oil rigs have become effective marine environments which often become inhabited by sea life, such as fish and coral. Rig reefs can be used as sustainable tourism attractions, bringing economic benefits to coastal communities. They also aid in restoring damaged reefs by increasing coral growth rates and biodiversity, further supporting local marine life.
Advantages of rig reefs over coral reefs
It is well known that coral reefs are both beautiful and beneficial. However, as they are typically located in regions of high economic and ecological value. Their existence is under constant threat from human activities such as fishing, shipping, and other anthropogenic interference. Rig reefs on the other hand can offer ecological diversity in areas that would otherwise be unsuitable or require significant capital investment to implement non-biological methods of establishing a reef. Additionally, rigs don’t face any of these threats because they are established structures that are isolated by design.
Benefits to Environment
The world’s oceans and coral reefs are undergoing a multitude of changes, some good and some bad. Ocean acidification, warming waters, and overfishing all have large impacts on marine ecosystems. But as long as human beings continue to consume seafood there will always be pressures on our seas. One practice that doesn’t create more environmental strain is rig to reef conversion. Converting abandoned offshore rigs into artificial reefs has been demonstrated to actually increase biodiversity in an area with minimal human interaction. Additionally, companies properly plug and abandoned all production equipment, leaving the area better than they found it.
Types of Rig Reefs
The three main types of rig reefs include tow and place, partial removal, and toppling in place. Tow and place includes severing the structure from the seafloor and towing it via boat to an approved location. Partial removal involves the removal of the top portion of the submerged platform, which can be removed to shore or placed on the seafloor. Toppling uses explosives that sever the base of the structure and places the structure on its side on the seafloor. Each one of these methods has proved to successfully fulfill the objectives of preserving wild habitats.
While offshore oil and gas activity is often viewed as primarily destructive and detrimental, it is possible to harvest energy resources and benefit the environment. Rig to reef conversion displays a beautiful connection between environmental sustainability and resource extraction.