Summary: Under current Oslo-Paris (OSPAR) regulations, full decommissioning of Man-Made Structures (MMS) in the North Sea requires physical removal of all installations1. However, recent ‘rigs-to-reef’ programmes in offshore California and the Gulf of Mexico have demonstrated that the presence of MMS enhances biodiversity and the process of removing all infrastructure may be detrimental to marine ecosystems. Yet the role of MMS (individually or cumulatively) on the surrounding benthic habitat (predominantly sediments) has not been quantified. There is now an urgent need for robust scientific study to identify the potential benefits of MMS, and the implications of complete removal, in the North Sea. To date, research highlighting the role of MMS in the North Sea ecosystem has relied heavily on modelling approaches with limited access to industry data. Only a few empirical studies have looked at biodiversity on MMS structures and very few studies have focused on the seabed around these structures. This project addresses this knowledge gap through novel technologies (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles) and ‘eDNA’ (i.e. Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) for analysing environmental microbial communities), with modelling of environmental data alongside data from industry (INSITE Interactive and our industry partners) to identify the role of MMS on key marine ecosystem processes. We have a strong team of project partners from industry (Shell, Repsol, INEOS, DNV-GL) and stakeholders (Shetland Oil Terminal Advisory Group, SOTEAG; National Subsea Research Initiative, NSRI). Together, they will form our Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG), who will disseminate data to end-users and inform our project outputs, i.e. evidence-based decommissioning guidelines and recommendations into the best monitoring approaches for MMS decommissioning in the North Sea and applicable elsewhere.
|Effective start/end date||01/01/21 → 30/06/23|