Bring Back the Gulf is an effort to provide an in-depth analysis of emerging issues in the disposition of abandoned offshore oil rigs in U.S. federal waters within the context of the greater national goal of restoring the Gulf of Mexico in the post-BP Deepwater Horizon era. The scientific, environmental and sociological aspects of current practices are described in a study entitled Bring Back the Gulf to be published in July, 2014, as an E-book and in hard copy. The publication recommends a re-examination of the Rigs to Reefs waivers currently allowed by the U.S. Interior Department for spent oil and gas rigs that are due for full decommissioning.
The Rigs to Reefs programs allow what were always considered to be temporary oil and gas structures to remain on the ocean floor permanently with the liability for them transferred to the public via Gulf state reefing programs. This saves the oil and gas industry literally millions of dollars per rig and will result in a junkyard of epic proportions as many new rigs come up for decommissioning in the next few years.
Authors DeeVon Quirolo and Richard Charter conclude that it is time to re-examine the Rigs-to-Reefs waivers. It is hoped that findings from this study will contribute to an objective understanding of the role that discarded oil and gas infrastructure may play in impeding the restoration of the Gulf of Mexico to full ecosystem health and productivity.
One promising scenario would lead to a Gulf that includes only the already-extensive system of artificial underwater structures comprised of spent oil and gas platform “jackets” and those either toppled or left in place with a clearance of 85’ below the water line. The Gulf likely will not accommodate hundreds more of these without sustaining tangible damage to the ecological balance of the region. The economic valuation of a Gulf of Mexico that boasts sustainable seafood harvests, safe navigation, ecological stability, and healthy quality of life for its residents is worth protecting, in contrast to the fiscal and ecological liabilities that will fall to the public as a result of an expansion of the practice of simply discarding retired rigs on the seabed.
Bring Back the Gulf is a project of the Coastal Coordination Program of The Ocean Foundation, Washington, D.C. http://www.oceanfdn.org/
It was made possible through the support of the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation. Special thanks to Elizabeth Hoover for her vision and commitment to turn the tide