Do we know enough to make future-proofed decisions about contaminants when decommissioning offshore oil and gas infrastructure?Darren J. Koppel A * , Francesca Gissi B , Ibukun Oluwoye C and Tom Cresswell B
A Australian Institute of Marine Science, Tropical Ecotoxicology and Risk Asessment, Perth, WA, Australia.
B Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, NST Environment Research Theme, Lucas Heights, NSW, Australia.
C Curtin Corrosion Centre, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia.
The APPEA Journal 63 S309-S314 https://doi.org/10.1071/AJ22173
Accepted: 15 February 2023 Published: 11 May 2023
© 2023 The Author(s) (or their employer(s)). Published by CSIRO Publishing on behalf of APPEA.
Offshore oil and gas infrastructure must be decommissioned at the end of its operational life. The base case approach for decommissioning under Australia’s regulatory framework is the complete removal of all infrastructure. However, alternative decommissioning approaches, such as leaving some infrastructure in situ, may deliver better environmental, economic, and health and safety outcomes. Derogation from complete removal requirements is possible if alternative approaches have acceptable environment impacts and deliver equal or better environmental outcomes. Potential environmental contaminants are present in all offshore infrastructure and if decommissioned in situ could pose unacceptable risks to marine ecosystems. Contaminants may accumulate in infrastructure as a result of oil and gas production, such as scales of mercury and naturally occurring radioactive materials, or arise from the degradation of infrastructure itself, such as plastics and steel corrosion products. The unique behaviour and interactions of contaminants with local ecosystems makes assessing their potential impacts challenging. This presentation reports on the contaminants likely to be present in offshore oil and gas infrastructure proposed to be decommissioned in situ. The expected behaviour of these contaminants in the marine environment is discussed to give context to measures of their potential hazards (i.e. guideline values). This paper is intended to start a conversation and serve as a useful guide for titleholders and regulators about some data needs to assess potential contaminant impacts from in-situ decommissioning.
Keywords: ecological risk assessment, environmental impact assessment, mercury, NORM, pollution, rigs to reef, sea dumping, waste.
Dr Darren Koppel leads ‘contaminants in decommissioning research’ as a Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Perth. His PhD in Ecotoxicology and Chemistry investigated the environmental risk of metals from Antarctic legacy waste sites. Darren is a board member of SETAC’s Asia-Pacific Geographic Union and a member of SETAC’s advisory panel to the UNEP Open Ended Working Group on a Science-Policy Panel for the sound management of chemicals and waste, and to prevent pollution.
Dr Francesca Gissi is a Research Scientist in the Contaminants Impact Program at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. Francesca’s current research is investigating the potential risks associated with mercury in oil and gas pipelines. Francesca has over 10 years’ experience in environmental toxicology, environmental chemistry and molecular biology. Francesca is a board member of the SETAC Asia-Pacific Geographic Union, Vice President of SETAC-Australasia and the Chemical Cluster Representative on the Board of Science and Technology Australia.
Dr Ibukun Oluwoye is a Research Fellow at Curtin Corrosion Centre, Curtin University, Perth. He is a recipient of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Visiting Research Fellowship at Kyoto University’s School of Global Environmental Studies, where he works on microplastic formation and remediation in natural environments to provide solutions for industrial processes within the focal context of sustainable developments.
Dr Tom Cresswell holds a BSc (Hons) in Ocean Science (2003) and an MSc in Applied Marine Science (2005), both from the University of Plymouth, UK and a PhD in Applied Sciences (Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 2013) from RMIT University. Tom is currently a Principal Research Scientist at ANSTO. He currently serves on the Board of SETAC Australasia as the Vice President (5 years). Tom has previously served on the Boards of Science and Technology Australia as the Chemical Sciences Cluster Representative (4 years) and the South Pacific Environmental Radioactivity Association as Secretary (4 years).
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