Bad old oil rigs could become good artificial reefs (we hope)

Oil rigs might be one of the most striking representations of the environmental damage our fossil fuel mad world wreaks. Still, according to new research from Aarhus University, oil rigs might have a valuable roll to play in the future.

Published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, researchers are urging governments to reconsider a law in which sea installations – such as oil rigs and wind turbines – have to be removed at the end of their lifespan, which can last for 20 or 30 years. The reason for this is that all the infrastructure needed to anchor the structures to the sea floor eventually becomes beneficial to plant and fish life.

“We also see many more porpoises around oil rigs than in the surrounding sea,” says Jonas Teilmann, a senior researcher from Aarhus University. “In, for example, the North Sea, an old oil rig will have the same function as a natural stone reef.”

The paper goes onto say that the law should be changed so that authorities can consider on a case-by-case basis whether an old facility should be removed.