Oil Rigs: To Remove Or Not To Remove?

By January 10, 2013 Ocean Solutions

Do you know what happens with an oil rig when the oil company stops using it (i.e. stops drilling)?

You would think that the rig gets removed form the Ocean…But it’s not that easy. You see, an oil rig would have been used for a long period of time, so long that underwater life has been established around the rigs. Those oil rigs are now a new habitat for coral reefs and schools of fish, so they are completely integrated in nature.

Ok, so now we have the problem. As opposed to their usual position, oil companies want to remove them, because otherwise they will be forced to maintain the rigs forever, as they can come down and they have to have all the lights on to advise the boats.

 pq0088-D-oil_rigs_brandon_coleOil companies say that the rigs can be dangerous and if you don’t remove the inactive rigs they can cause an oil leakage. But scientists and fishermen are together against this opinion. Lots of fishes are going to the oil rigs to form new communities, so is really easy for the fishermen to locate and catch them.

The scientific point of view is that you have here a great opportunity to study the effect of the artificial coral reefs! They can be the solution to repopulate devastated areas, but is difficult to predict their consequences. I mean, are these rigs suitable for coral reefs, but we don’t know if the schools of fishes are brand new, or they are just schools from their natural habitats which have moved to the artificial one. One thing is sure: oil rigs can change a muddy bottom into a more solid one, more appropriate for sea life.

Let’s talk about numbers now, so you will have an idea of the magnitude of this problem. Just in the northern Gulf of Mexico, you can find about 3000 oil rigs. By the law called “Idle Iron”, after five years of being inactive you have to remove them. That means that we have 650 oil rigs to be removed. Those are the oldest, so they have the best communities growing on them. They are removing about two or three each week!


Do you think the new communities worth the danger of a possible oil seepage?

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • bill says:

    Fish like structure and they make great reefs in the middle of the sea!

  • Andrew Lewin says:

    You bet they do, but does the metal from the structure leach out toxic chemicals? I don’t know if they do. Can anyone tell me?

  • Hector R. Leta says:

    Do we have historical data showing oil leakage from abandoned oil rigs?. I presume we do not. Then the issue is the cost of maintenance for the oil industry. I believe it is more important to keep those communities where they are. Life opens its ways and we have to step aside.

  • Cathy Owens says:

    I vote to have the oil rigs removed! They are unsightly and not natural to the environment.

  • If they are doing good for the environment then leave them in. But if they are hurting the environment then remove them. Fish need a place to live and these old rigs seem like a great place for them! thanks for the post.

  • Caleb Withers says:

    If the rigs are rusted then they should be removed because they could topple and cause major damage.But if they are well maintained and sturdy they should stay. If you had a nice well kept house and some stranger came and knocked it down how would you feel?

  • Dependant and destructive says:

    For goodness sake can’t you plant a dam oil rig in your house /what’s that you don’t want that ugly thing okay then just take the money you rude people who are destroying the environment/the sci if future movies got things right -it dosent seem like we will have nature for much longer

  • Rob says:

    When oil rigs are dismantled, they use explosives to break up the platform legs. This blast kills all of the fish in the immediate area immediately. And once this structure is removed, what once was a prime habitat for all levels of the aquamarine water column for life, becomes a desolate zone of sand with no holding structure for marine life. Cap the well head below securely and knocked down the platforms at least 85ft down, allowing the upper superstructure to lay down and settle on the ocean floor. As a shipwreck slowly decays, it’s hulk provides a positive marine habitat for thousands of species. The Gulf of Mexico offshore marine habitat has become rich with pelagic and structure specific marine species. From shellfish, to fin fish and micro organisms – all viable healthy creatures required for healthy oceans – thrive around these rigs.

    So many have no clue in this offshore habitat. Well heads are capped throughout the Gulf now, after drill ships have drilled initial holes into the Ocean’s floor. leaving these well heads available for future oil extraction. This same well head cap concept, can be leveraged to entomb the well itself, removing all risk of it leaching into the water column.

    We must remember, oil and methane are natural leaching elements in the Gulf of Mexico. For thousands of years, tar balls of ASPHALTUM, have littered Texas and Louisiana coastlines, well before man’s dependence on fossil fuels. The Karankawa Indians of Texas, lined their primitive pots for water retention.


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