Making uniform decisions to justify the decommissioning of offshore artificial structures at the end of their lives could pose significant environmental challenges, a new study has said.
In line with the global decarbonisation agenda, governments and industries worldwide are exploring how best to expand the use of renewable energy technologies to replace fossil fuels.
This means that worldwide, an increasing number of structures such as wind turbines are being sited on land and in the sea, while oil and gas infrastructure is reaching its end-of-life and requiring decommissioning.
Writing in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, researchers say evidence is limited as to how best to manage such structures when they reach the end of their lives, with some arguments that any artificial structure should be removed in entirety and others proposing structures be repurposed.
To counter that, scientists have called for urgent global action so that the construction of future artificial structures – or the decommissioning of existing ones – doesn’t create an additional ecological burden on areas of the planet already being severely impacted by the effects of climate change.
The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Plymouth, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the UK Government’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).
It formed part of the Decommissioning – Relative Effects of Alternative Management Strategies (DREAMS) project, a three-year initiative funded by UKRI’s INSITE programme.