The almost extinct northern white rhino
Experts have backed the idea of leaving North Sea oil rigs and wind turbines in place when they come to the end of their working lives.
Studies show they provide fantastic habitats for endangered Lophelia coldwater coral, which in turn can be a home for sharks and fish.
In a survey, 36 (out of 38) scientists and consultants with relevant knowledge of the decommissioning of oil and gas installations said that treating each one on “a case by case basis” would provide better “environmental outcomes”.
Anne-Mette Jørgensen, who runs a not-for-profit organisation called North Sea Futures, which aims to enable the North Sea to thrive as an ecosystem, says that society needs to rethink the way that it deals with these old rigs.
“By setting out to remove all 1,300 oil and gas installations in the North Sea, we will be removing artificial reefs to which the surrounding ecosystem has long adapted, since they have been there for 20 to 30 years,” she adds.
In addition, it is estimated that there could eventually be somewhere between 10–20,000 wind turbines in the North Sea if governments stick to their climate change pledges, and these provide habitat for reef systems, too.
Rigs and turbines also act as de facto no-fishing zones, which means they will protect the marine environment from the damaging impacts of, especially, bottom trawling. JF
North Sea oil rigs can make a valuable contribution to the ecosystem.