The Asia Pacific region is set to follow the North Sea in increasing its decommissioning activity over the next decade. Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the rest of the region is home to 833 installations that are on or over 20 years old – the average life expectancy of offshore assets. But with so much of the region’s infrastructure under threat from decommissioning, many have questioned the impact to the environment.
A thought piece by the National University of Singapore (NUS) singled out the importance of rig to reef in this context back in 2012. In this blog, we explore what could be done in the region to both keep the integrity of the sea bed and complete decommissioning applications as efficiently as possible.
Rig-to-reef (RTR) is the practice of converting decommissioned platform infrastructure into artificial reefs for the seabed. The practice has already proved popular in the Asia Pacific when the storm-damaged Baram-8 in Malaysia was made into an artificial reef. Despite there being no current RTRs in place in the region, there is sure to be an appetite as decommissioning work increases.
Rigs prove popular with sea life, especially as they become an integral part of the seabed over their 20-30 year life span. An OCS report that focussed on the Gulf of Mexico in 2000 stated that fish densities were 20-50 times higher around the platforms than anywhere else in open water – a true sign that artificial reefs work.
Pros outweigh the cons
While operators may look towards asset life extension techniques to keep relevant rigs operating, those who are set to decommission will be pleased to know that the pros outweigh the cons in terms of implementing RTRs with old assets.
Despite potential navigational issues around the Asia Pacific region, operators creating RTRs could benefit from being more environmentally friendly, increasing fisheries in the field, and potentially negating costs such as rig disposal. The question on whether RTRs would be welcome in the region are so far undecided and confusing by governing bodies, according to the NUS.
Given the green light
In her presentation for the National University of Singapore, Youna Lyons highlighted the large discrepancy between governing bodies and law in the Asia Pacific region that meant operators looking to RTRs would be left confused as to whether they could undertake a project after decommissioning.
“(While) international law does not prevent the re-use of rigs as artificial reefs, provided that it does not compromise the safety of navigation, IMO guidelines (on the matter) are inadequate. A paradigm shift is needed in the approach.”
The biggest issue seems to be the safety of navigation around such artificial reefs by shipping traffic. That aside, the law states that rigs can be re-used, it is just a case of where they will be able to be positioned.
Rig to reef is vital
In summary, the presentation reveals how vital rig to reefs can be for both operators and environment. While operators can potentially save money, and enhance the environment they’ve extracted from, the seabed and sea life can see drastic increases in activity if the manmade reefs are positioned well – as long as governing bodies and local authorities agree, Asia Pacific could benefit from more RTRs in the future.
The increase of decommissioning
As operators around the world review their aged assets, in the current climate it is no surprise to see decommissioning projects beginning on non-profitable rigs. In the Claxton Engineering Decommissioning Case Study Pack, you will learn how the Claxton team have already helped operators on their decommissioning projects and helped to save time and money too.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia