The ecology of infrastructure decommissioning in the North Sea: what we need to know and how to achieve it

A.M. Fowler*, A.M. Jørgensen, J.W.P. Coolen, D.O.B. Jones, J.C. Svendsen, R. Brabant, B. Rumes, S. Degraer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

As decommissioning of oil and gas (O&G) installations intensifies in the North Sea, and worldwide, debate rages regarding the fate of these novel habitats and their associated biota—a debate that has important implications for future decommissioning of offshore wind farms (OWFs). Calls to relax complete removal requirements in some circumstances and allow part of an O&G installation to be left in the marine environment are increasing. Yet knowledge regarding the biological communities that develop on these structures and their ecological role in the North Sea is currently insufficient to inform such decommissioning decisions. To focus debate regarding decommissioning policy and guide ecological research, we review environmental policy objectives in the region, summarize existing knowledge regarding ecological aspects of decommissioning for both O&G and OWF installations, and identify approaches to address knowledge gaps through science–industry collaboration. We find that in some cases complete removal will conflict with other policies regarding protection and restoration of reefs, as well as the conservation of species within the region. Key ecological considerations that are rarely considered during decommissioning decisions are: (i) provision of reef habitat, (ii) productivity of offshore ecosystems, (iii) enhancement of biodiversity, (iv) protection of the seabed from trawling, and (v) enhancement of connectivity. Knowledge gaps within these areas will best be addressed using industry infrastructure and vessels for scientific investigations, re-analysis of historical data held by industry, scientific training of industry personnel, joint research funding opportunities, and trial decommissioning projects.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfsz143
Number of pages18
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Aug 2019

Fingerprint

decommissioning
North Sea
infrastructure
ecology
industry
reefs
wind farm
research support
environmental policy
habitats
marine environment
human resources
reef
gases
biodiversity
trawling
oils
habitat
sea
ecosystems

Keywords

  • artificial reefs
  • biodiversity
  • conservation
  • decommissioning
  • ecosystem
  • marine policy
  • North Sea
  • offshore infrastructure
  • platform
  • sustainability
  • wind farm

Cite this

Fowler, A.M. ; Jørgensen, A.M. ; Coolen, J.W.P. ; Jones, D.O.B. ; Svendsen, J.C. ; Brabant, R. ; Rumes, B. ; Degraer, S. / The ecology of infrastructure decommissioning in the North Sea: what we need to know and how to achieve it. In: ICES Journal of Marine Science. 2019.
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The ecology of infrastructure decommissioning in the North Sea: what we need to know and how to achieve it. / Fowler, A.M.; Jørgensen, A.M.; Coolen, J.W.P.; Jones, D.O.B.; Svendsen, J.C.; Brabant, R.; Rumes, B.; Degraer, S.

In: ICES Journal of Marine Science, 03.08.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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T1 - The ecology of infrastructure decommissioning in the North Sea: what we need to know and how to achieve it

AU - Fowler, A.M.

AU - Jørgensen, A.M.

AU - Coolen, J.W.P.

AU - Jones, D.O.B.

AU - Svendsen, J.C.

AU - Brabant, R.

AU - Rumes, B.

AU - Degraer, S.

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AB - As decommissioning of oil and gas (O&G) installations intensifies in the North Sea, and worldwide, debate rages regarding the fate of these novel habitats and their associated biota—a debate that has important implications for future decommissioning of offshore wind farms (OWFs). Calls to relax complete removal requirements in some circumstances and allow part of an O&G installation to be left in the marine environment are increasing. Yet knowledge regarding the biological communities that develop on these structures and their ecological role in the North Sea is currently insufficient to inform such decommissioning decisions. To focus debate regarding decommissioning policy and guide ecological research, we review environmental policy objectives in the region, summarize existing knowledge regarding ecological aspects of decommissioning for both O&G and OWF installations, and identify approaches to address knowledge gaps through science–industry collaboration. We find that in some cases complete removal will conflict with other policies regarding protection and restoration of reefs, as well as the conservation of species within the region. Key ecological considerations that are rarely considered during decommissioning decisions are: (i) provision of reef habitat, (ii) productivity of offshore ecosystems, (iii) enhancement of biodiversity, (iv) protection of the seabed from trawling, and (v) enhancement of connectivity. Knowledge gaps within these areas will best be addressed using industry infrastructure and vessels for scientific investigations, re-analysis of historical data held by industry, scientific training of industry personnel, joint research funding opportunities, and trial decommissioning projects.

KW - artificial reefs

KW - biodiversity

KW - conservation

KW - decommissioning

KW - ecosystem

KW - marine policy

KW - North Sea

KW - offshore infrastructure

KW - platform

KW - sustainability

KW - wind farm

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