Scientists hope to show marine growth on inactive North Sea oil and gas platforms can be turned into fish and animal feeds.
It is hoped seaweed and algae brought to shore during decommissioning can be recycled for the benefit of Scotland’s valuable salmon and shellfish farming industry.
In what is said to be a global first, researchers will look at ways to reuse the material, which can include seaweed, mussels and corals.
Scottish decom-missioning company CessCon Decom has teamed up with researchers at Abertay University for the project.
They say the collaboration could lead to a range of new products and materials that will, ultimately, help Scotland reach its net-zero goals.
It is believed the feasibility study, which is also supported by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), could result in up to 40,000 tonnes of marine growth on oil and gas platform jackets being recycled over the next decade.
The figure is based on an estimate of 10% marine waste per decommissioned installation by weight, and an energy industry report highlighting a 400,000-tonne decommissioning pipeline.
European regulations prohibit energy companies from leaving behind any part of a disused platform, stating operators must return sites to a clean seabed.
At the end of a platform’s lifecycle, various types of marine species are found on the underwater jacket. Algae, seaweed, mussels, anemones and hard and soft coral can be found at different depths, depending on environmental conditions in the water.
CessCon environment and regulatory affairs director Karen Seath said: “As the North Sea oil and gas sector matures, the decommissioning sector has an incredibly important role to play in making sure the parts of those installations which are no longer in use and are required to be brought to shore are disposed of safely and responsibly.
“Our process is built around circular economy principles and we have set an ambitious target to reach the point where 100% of the decommissioned materials brought onshore are reused, reconditioned, refurbished or recycled.
“At the moment, marine growth is typically sent to landfill or incinerated, but we recognise the opportunity to do more and use this waste to support the supply chains of other sectors.”
She added: “There is also ongoing debate as to whether the clean seabed policy is in fact the best way forward, environmentally and financially.
“In other global markets, for instance, we have seen decommissioned infra-structure converted to artificial reefs and left in the sea, thereby maintaining the underwater ecosystem that is created over the course of the platform’s life.
“At this point in time, however, unless given dispensation, infrastructure in European waters at the end of its life must come out. We aim to reuse and recycle the material in the most environmentally-conscious way.”
Abertay University food science lecturer Boon-Seang Chu said: “This study is about understanding the nutritional composition of the marine growth retrieved from decommissioned rigs, whether onshore or offshore, and the feasibility of recovering proteins and fatty acids from the waste materials.
“The results of this work will help advise follow-on steps of the project.”