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.
Oil 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?