So how will Britain go about ending the North Sea oil industry, as we got into in Part One yesterday?
Suggestions that the life of production platforms could be extended by the widespread conversion to alternative uses, such as bases for wind turbine generators, are probably not economically viable.
Platforms cost a fortune to service and maintain while the revenue from turbines is relatively small. A few platforms in shallower waters could provide electrical connection bases for offshore wind farms; the platform would carry the electrical collection and transmission equipment gathering power from individual turbines and managing the transmission to land through existing power cable connections.
Although the technology is far from proved, that has not stopped some from suggesting wave power devices could be anchored to defunct oil or gas production platforms. Where environmental conditions are more favorable, specifically in warmer climes, a number of alternative options may exist for the millions of tons of steel anchored above or standing on our sea beds.
A report last year stated the Gulf of Mexico continental shelf will lose a third of its offshore platforms in the next five years and most of the remaining platforms will be removed in the next 15 to 20 years, depriving the area of an entirely unintended (but nevertheless rich) coral ecosystem. Perversely, it seems rigs are removed because recognizing their environmental role as providing habitat would incur oil companies significant costs in compliance to Federal laws, yet the loss of rig structures in the next five years is estimated to potentially destroy 1,875 acres of coral reef habitat and 7 billion invertebrates.
It is estimated that 49 species of federally managed fish and 25 species of protected invertebrates utilize, to varying degrees, the platform substrate for feeding, spawning, mating, and growing to maturity.
In locations such as the Gulf, clearly many more options exist for alternative uses for some if not all of the existing platforms, but in the harsher conditions of the North Sea, most platforms will ultimately be destined for the scrap heap.