Scientists hope to show that marine growth on idle oil and gas platforms in the North Sea can be turned into food for fish and animals.
It is hoped that seaweed and seaweed brought ashore during dismantling can be recycled to benefit Scotland’s valuable salmon and shellfish farming industry.
In what would be a world first, researchers will look for ways to reuse the material, which may include algae, mussels and corals.
Scottish dismantling company CessCon Decom has teamed up with researchers from the University of Abertay for the project.
They say the collaboration could lead to a range of new products and materials that will ultimately help Scotland reach its net zero targets.
The feasibility study, which is also supported by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Center (IBioIC), is believed to result in the recycling of up to 40,000 tonnes of marine growth on oil and gas platform casings over the next decade.
The figure is based on an estimate of 10% marine litter per decommissioned facility by weight, and an energy industry report highlighting a 400,000 tonne decommissioning pipeline.
What to do with downgraded platforms?
European regulations prohibit energy companies from leaving behind any part of a disused platform, stipulating that operators must return sites to a clean seabed.
At the end of a rig’s life cycle, various types of marine species end up on the underwater shirt. Algae, seaweed, mussels, anemones, and hard and soft corals can be found at different depths, depending on the environmental water conditions.
CessCon’s Director of Environment and Regulatory Affairs, Karen Seath, said: “As the North Sea oil and gas sector matures, the decommissioning sector has an extremely important role to play in ensuring that parts of these facilities that are no longer in use and need to be brought ashore are disposed of in a safe and responsible manner.
“Our process is built around the principles of the circular economy and we have set an ambitious goal to reach the point where 100% of decommissioned materials brought ashore are reused, reconditioned, refurbished or recycled.
“Right now, marine growth is typically sent to landfill or incinerated, but we recognize the opportunity to do more and use this waste to support supply chains in other sectors.”
She added: “There is also an ongoing debate about whether clean seabed policy is in fact the best way forward, environmentally and financially.
“In other global markets, for example, we have seen disused infrastructure converted into artificial reefs and left in the sea, maintaining the underwater ecosystem that is created over the life of the rig.
“But at this stage, unless waived, European water infrastructure at the end of its life must go out.
“We aim to reuse and recycle the material in the most environmentally friendly way.”
The study will inform “follow-up steps”
Boon-Seang Chu, Professor of Food Science at the University of Abertay, said: “This study aims to understand the nutritional composition of marine growth recovered from decommissioned platforms, whether on land or in sea, and the feasibility of recovering protein and fatty acids from waste.
“The results of this work will help advise the next steps for the project.”
The study follows a 2018 collaboration between the University of Abertay and Scottish fishing net manufacturer W&J Knox which saw waste collected from the nets turned into animal feed.
Liz Fletcher, Director of Business Engagement at IBioIC, said: “The collaboration between CessCon and the University of Abertay is a great example of an initiative that could turn an industry’s waste into a valuable resource. for another.
“Marine biomass is one of many inputs that can be used by the biotechnology sector to produce a range of products and materials that will ultimately help Scotland achieve its net zero goals.”
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[Could marine life on oil platforms be a source of feed for fish farms?]