Opinion: Let’s give rigs to reefs a try

Tom Baxter, senior lecturer in chemical engineering at Aberdeen University.
Tom Baxter, senior lecturer in chemical engineering at Aberdeen University.

Coverage of the Decom Offshore conference left me feeling very frustrated and dismayed. It was the same old, same old:

Uncertainty on costs

Cost reduction

Maximising economic recovery

Supply chain uncertainty

Nothing new there, where was the radical thinking? So here we are moving ahead with plans that will cost the taxpayer £20 billion (plus or minus a big number) to remove infrastructure that has no environmental basis, delivers little by way of societal benefits and is a drain on the economy.

As an industry and a nation seeking to protect the environment and maximise economic recovery, we should first ask the legislative authorities the basis for removal. Demonstrate to the taxpayer the compelling environmental case that underpins removal being the right thing to do. Surely that is a very reasonable request.

Anticipating the response from the government, the taxpayer will be pointed to marine legislation, particularly OSPAR 98/3. I can find nothing in the legislative documents that clearly delineates the environmental case for removal. Could someone in authority shut me up and tell me the reason why removal is good for the environment, society and the economy?

You only have to look at what is happening in Australia and the US to see what radical thinking can do with the rigs to reefs programme. Why don’t we look at rigs to reefs from an overall sustainability viewpoint within the framework of the UK’s sustainability metrics?

Let’s be radical and take rigs to reefs further by leaving a clean, inert and safe topside in place too. What harm is a clean topsides doing? If left in place there are huge cost savings to be had. It will maximise economic recovery, remove a large cost uncertainty and free up the supply chain to create much more value for society.