We offer a range of tools and capabilities for the decommissioning of offshore oil and gas infrastructure to deliver industry and environmental benefits.

The challenge

Is spent oil and gas infrastructure a liability or opportunity?

In the waters around Australia there are dozens of oil and gas platforms and an estimated 3,500 kilometres of pipeline that are coming to the end of their lifespan.
There are a range of decommissioning options under consideration, with sound decision-making required to manage environmental liability.

At some sites, structures may be best left in place. At others, there is potential for removal, relocation, or repurposing – for renewables, carbon capture and storage, or even aquaculture.

Each option brings a different set of risks that need to be assessed.

[Image appears of a close view of the ocean and then images move through to show an oil rig in the ocean, pipelines underwater, and a satellite image of the earth with Australia facing out and text: 3500 km, Equivalent distance between Perth and Brisbane]

Narrator: In the waters around Australia lies a massive ecological challenge, the decommissioning of over 3,500km of oil and gas pipeline and dozens of platforms.

[Images move through to show a close view of an oil rig, pipelines running under the water, and then the sun setting behind an oil rig]

This infrastructure is close to the end of its working life and therefore has the potential to become a widespread and severe environmental hazard.

[Images move through to show a rear view of a male walking towards a piece of equipment, a close view of the equipment, fish swimming in amongst the base structure, and aqua farms in the ocean]

But instead, what if these structures could contribute something positive to the environment and society in the future?

[Image changes to show the CSIRO logo surrounded by rotating symbols of different computer modelling programmes and text appears: Containment science, Ecosystem modelling, Habitat modelling and mapping, Risk assessment, Connectivity, Invasive marine species, Existing datasets]

Using a range of tools and capabilities, CSIRO can help identify methods

[Image changes to show an animation of an oil rig and the image shows the oil rig being deconstructed and the parts being used to make various reefs under the ocean]

which minimise risk to the environment, maximise re-use and minimise cost to industry.

[Music plays and the image changes to show the oil rig in the ocean and then the image changes to show a view looking down on an oil rig structure]

[Image changes to show a view of fish swimming amongst the base structure of the oil rig and the camera zooms in on coloured tropical fish swimming]

When viewed from the surface, these structures seem industrial and lifeless, however go beneath the waves and you see a different story unfold. Life appears and thrives.

[Image changes to show a turtle swimming amongst the base structure of the oil rig]

Over time, some pipelines and platforms have become home to a diverse range of marine life.

[Image changes to show tropical fish swimming around the base structures of the oil rig and then the image moves to the right and a symbol and text appears on the left: CSIRO Tools and Capabilities, Habitat Modelling and Mapping]

Using Advanced Habitat Modelling we can determine how important these habitats are and how important they could become in the future.

[Image changes to show a view of the ocean and then dolphins swimming in the ocean and a sea surface temperature graph can be seen superimposed over the view of the ocean]

As oceans warm due to climate change, a vast number of marine species will shift their geographical range.

[Image changes to show a view of the ocean and the camera pans over the surface of the ocean]

Some are already moving at rates of over 70km per decade.

[Image changes to show to show a model of the oil platforms and pipelines in the ocean and fish can be seen moving along the pipelines and logos and text can be seen on the left side: Containment science, Ecosystem modelling, Existing datasets, Habitat modelling and mapping]

In the vast expanse of the open sea, these structures, or parts of them, could act as stepping stones for animals searching for a new home.

[Image changes to show a close view of marine life around the base of the oil rig structure and symbols and text appears on the left: Ecosystem modelling, Invasive marine species, Risk assessment]

However, it may not just be native species that benefit from these safe harbours.

[Image changes to show a close view of marine plants growing on the base of the oil rig and then the image changes to show a view looking down on a boat moving through the ocean]

The existence of invasive species on a structure could be a serious threat to bio-security.

[Image changes to show a view looking down on the boat making its way to the oil rig]

An oil platform is the central hub in a network of vessels ferrying cargo, personnel and product to domestic and international ports.

[Images move through to show a close view of a male working on the platform, employees wearing harnesses and cleaning the pipes under the oil platform, and the base structure under the water]

Regular inspection and cleaning of platforms plays a key role in avoiding the spread of invasive species.

[Images move through of a piece of the oil rig, two employees looking at equipment, a boat in the water, a male in the cab of the boat, and a male hooking piece of equipment from a platform]

If a platform is repurposed as a marine habitat, CSIRO can conduct risk assessments to help ensure invasive species don’t use them to reach other vulnerable locations.

[Images move through of a piece of equipment above the surface, the equipment being plunged beneath the ocean, and then fish swimming around the base of the oil rig]

This becomes increasingly important when considering translocating segments of a structure for use as an artificial reef.

[Music plays and the image changes to show oil rigs above the surface of the water]

When removing structures we run into our next challenge, contaminants.

[Image changes to show a view of an oil rig in the ocean and then the camera pans down and the image shows the pipeline beneath the surface of the water]

As oil and gas is extracted contaminants from deep in the earth become concentrated in pipes.

[Image changes to show a piece of equipment underneath the ocean and then the image changes to show a close view of a piece of equipment working beneath the ocean]

The removal process may kick up the sediment around the structures and release dormant contaminants into the environment.

[Image changes to show a view of the surface of the ocean and then the image changes to show a tool at work taking a sample from the ocean floor and symbols and text appears on the left: Containment science, Ecosystem modelling, Risk assessment, Connectivity]

A range of tools are required to balance the importance of a habitat with the threat of invasive organisms and contaminants.

[Music plays and images move through to show an oil rig in the ocean, employees looking at large equipment structures, and then looking at the equipment on a computer screen]

The most exciting future for oil and gas infrastructure requires all of the tools and capabilities at our disposal repurposing for the blue economy.

[Images flash through of a piece of equipment in the ocean, equipment in a factory, employees at work in the factory, a piece of equipment suspended over the ocean, and a propeller underwater]

From renewable energy projects harnessing the power of the sea,

[Images move through of a boat near an aquaculture farm, an employee at work, a fish jumping out of the water, a view looking down on people working on an oil rig, and structures in the ocean]

to sustainable aquaculture facilities feeding a growing world, the blue economy could transform these structures into something entirely new.

[Images move through of various pieces of equipment, the oil rig in the ocean, a male sitting in front of a control panel, people working on the oil rig, and then watching a suspended piece of equipment]

This opportunity not only utilises the underlying physical assets but also the expertise and experience of the people working offshore.

[Images move through to show the oil rig, equipment below the ocean surface, a scuba diver looking at a piece of equipment, marine life around the base of the oil rig, and a female giving a presentation]

There are many pathways forward, whether it be as a habitat, a lifeline for marine animals,

[Images move through of a piece of equipment, employees in a workshop, crew on the deck of a boat, a view looking down on a dock, and an aerial view of a boat moving towards equipment in the ocean]

or economic potential in emerging industries, one thing is certain, the story is not over for our offshore infrastructure.

[Image changes to show a view of an oil rig in the ocean]

It’s only just beginning.

[Music plays and the CSIRO logo and credits appear on the right of the image]

[Image changes to show a white screen and the CSIRO logo and text appears: CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency]

Decommissioning offshore oil and gas infrastructure - liability or opportunity :  We offer a range of tools and capabilities for the decommissioning of offshore oil and gas infrastructure to deliver industry and environmental benefits.

Our response

Environmental and cost-effective solutions

We are helping to identify methods of decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure that minimise risk to the environment and lower cost to industry, while simultaneously maximising opportunities for productive use.

Complete removal of offshore infrastructure is not always the only and best option for the environment. When an engineered structure has been part of the marine environment for an extended length of time, it has almost certainly become home to a diverse range of marine life.

Assessing how important these habitats are, and mapping out the ecosystems that exist within them, will be a vitally important piece of work that needs to be undertaken before decommissioning can begin.

As oil and gas is extracted from beneath the ocean floor, contaminants become concentrated in the pipeline. The risk of those contaminants escaping into the wider environment varies depending on whether infrastructure is removed, repurposed, or relocated. We can deliver trusted advice on contaminants to minimise any risk to the wider environment.

The results

Science to support new offshore opportunities

Industry partners can utilise our capabilities to survey, assess and model the importance of offshore infrastructure and their contribution to biodiversity. 

We can investigate how equipment might support (or deter) species of particular conservation value, or how they might contribute to fisheries productivity. Our expertise in contaminants can also address the risk of disturbing sediment as old rigs are moved, or if the sites are opened up for other uses such as fishing.

In addition to assessing risk, we can realise offshore opportunities through the repurposing of infrastructure. This includes how best to build an offshore blue economy through integrated renewable energy generation and offshore aquaculture; and exploring the feasibility of artificial reefs to support biodiversity and fishing,
Our work can apply to large-scale transformation and will inform the future of decommissioning Australia’s oil and gas infrastructure.

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We partner with small and large companies, government and industry in Australia and around the world.

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