To what extent can decommissioning options for marine artificial structures move us toward environmental targets?

Knights, Antony M.; Lemasson, Anaëlle J.; Firth, Louise B.; Beaumont, Nicola; Birchenough, Silvana; Claisse, Jeremy; Coolen, Joop W.P.; Copping, Andrea; De Dominicis, Michela ORCID:; Degraer, Steven; Elliott, Michael; Fernandes, Paul G.; Fowler, Ashley M.; Frost, Matthew; Henry, Lea-Anne; Hicks, Natalie; Hyder, Kieran; Jagerroos, Sylvia; Love, Milton; Lynam, Chris; Macreadie, Peter I.; McLean, Dianne; Marlow, Joseph; Mavraki, Ninon; Montagna, Paul A.; Paterson, David M.; Perrow, Martin R.; Porter, Joanne; Bull, Ann Scarborough; Schratzberger, Michaela; Shipley, Brooke; van Elden, Sean; Vanaverbeke, Jan; Want, Andrew; Watson, Stephen C.L.; Wilding, Thomas A.; Somerfield, Paul J.. 2023 To what extent can decommissioning options for marine artificial structures move us toward environmental targets? Journal of Environmental Management, 350, 119644.

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Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy is key to international energy transition efforts and the move toward net zero. For many nations, this requires decommissioning of hundreds of oil and gas infrastructure in the marine environment. Current international, regional and national legislation largely dictates that structures must be completely removed at end-of-life although, increasingly, alternative decommissioning options are being promoted and implemented. Yet, a paucity of real-world case studies describing the impacts of decommissioning on the environment make decision-making with respect to which option(s) might be optimal for meeting international and regional strategic environmental targets challenging. To address this gap, we draw together international expertise and judgment from marine environmental scientists on marine artificial structures as an alternative source of evidence that explores how different decommissioning options might ameliorate pressures that drive environmental status toward (or away) from environmental objectives. Synthesis reveals that for 37 United Nations and Oslo-Paris Commissions (OSPAR) global and regional environmental targets, experts consider repurposing or abandoning individual structures, or abandoning multiple structures across a region, as the options that would most strongly contribute toward targets. This collective view suggests complete removal may not be best for the environment or society. However, different decommissioning options act in different ways and make variable contributions toward environmental targets, such that policy makers and managers would likely need to prioritise some targets over others considering political, social, economic, and ecological contexts. Current policy may not result in optimal outcomes for the environment or society.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 03014797
Additional Keywords: oil and gas platforms, offshore wind, artificial structures, impact assessment, environmental management, expert judgement
Date made live: 29 Nov 2023 11:38 +0 (UTC)

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