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  • Can Oil and Gas Structures Benefit Conservation?

Can Oil and Gas Structures Benefit Conservation?

Oct 29 2019 Read 595 Times

While oil and gas harbours a reputation as a dirty industry, new research from Edinburgh University suggests North Sea installations have “significant conservation significance to protected species” and are helping to support marine life.

Using computer simulations, the researchers observed the underwater installations collecting coral particles flowing from the Atlantic Ocean into the North Sea. While the particles from native Atlantic Ocean species such as Lophelia coral would usually die, the oil and gas installations provided an ideal habitat for the corals to thrive in the waters around Shetland and the offshore Brent and Ninian fields.

Underwater structures provide deepwater habitat for coral

The research was funded by INSITE (Influence of Structures in the Ecosystem), an organisation established to investigate the impact of artificial installations in the North Sea. Lee-Ann Henry, a Chancellors fellow at Edinburgh University explains how the team used computer simulated technology to track the paths of Lophelia coral particles.

“What our study did was simulate ocean conditions to see what would happen to a small coral particle if it were to drift in the ocean and to see where it would land," she says. “They ended up landing in these areas in the natural populations that are actually marine protected areas."

Scientists predict oil and gas structures could create new ecosystems

For centuries, the coral particles have flowed into the North Sea and promptly dies without a structure to cling to. Only on sporadic occasions were the corals able to survive until reaching offshore reefs around Sweden and Norway. Now, Henry asserts that "oil and gas platforms appear able to protect these species of coral" in deep water and predicts the genetic story could materialise in the next few years.

“Potentially, oil and gas structures could be providing the function of creating new ecosystems destroyed by fishing,” she adds.

While Henry admits that from a scientific perspective it would be ideal to remove the structures, she sees the study as an interesting commentary on the potential ecological benefits of decommissioned oil and gas structures, which are usually portrayed as detrimental to the environment.

Oil and gas installations aren't the only concern being targeted by environmentalists, with pollution from the maritime industry also an issue. For a closer look at new legislations introduced by the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU) and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and designed to address maritime pollution, don't miss 'Safety of Shipboard Diesel-LNG Dual-Fuel Engines Relies on Ventilation Flow Assurance Switch.'

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