Frequently Asked Questions
Do the platforms corrode, and thus cause pollution or prove unstable?
Offshore oil and gas platforms are made of steel, which over time corrodes into iron oxide (rust). However, California platforms are covered with crustaceans which seals the steel off from oxygen. Thereby, slowing the rate of corrosion. Moreover, the rate of corrosion in the ocean is low and most experts believe that oil platforms will last upwards of two to three hundred years without maintenance before collapsing.
In the Gulf of Mexico, where R2R has been implemented for over 20 years, corrosion has not been a problem. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries notes that, "the use of obsolete oil and gas platforms in Louisiana has proven to be highly successful. Their large numbers, design, longevity and stability have provided a number of advantages."
How will implementing R2R affect commercial fishing?
In testimony before the California State Lands Commission, a representative of one of California's trawlers associations claimed that trawlers do not want reefs of any kind, and instead prefer a "clean ocean bottom" to reduce the risk of snagged nets and damaged gear. With proper navigational aids installed around the reef, trawlers should be able to avoid the externality of equipment damage by maintaining a safe distance from the reef.
Moreover, shrimp trawlers in the Gulf of Mexico evidently drag their nets within a quarter mile of reefed platforms and report that these areas tend to be more productive than others. Although removing the platforms completely would increase the fishable area for trawlers, scientific evidence suggests that trawlers would incur costs from platform removal in that fish stocks would be depleted, both from the immediate damage cause by explosives used to sever the platform base, as well as long-term effects from loss of habitat and spawning grounds.
What is the establishment and maintenance costs for R2R?
The one-time cost to establish operational guidelines for evaluating and accepting rigs into the program and for maintaining them once converted to reefs, is estimated to be $250,000. This cost is carried by the oil companies.
As for ongoing maintenance and operations for R2R, Louisiana spends approximately $250,000 annually to monitor and maintain the 111 converted platforms remaining off its coast. It is important to note that there are less than 30 platforms off the coast of California, so the annual maintenance is estimated to be $68,000.
How do R2R structures function as fish habitat?
After 30 years of observing and monitoring the marine ecosystems on oil platforms, research has suggested that these structures have evolved into economically and ecologically valuable ecosystems. For example, juvenile rockfish, several species of which are currently recognized as being over-fished in the state of California, have been found to live in higher densities at several of the platforms as compared to nearby natural reefs. “In some locations, platforms may provide much or all of the adult fishes of some heavily-fished species and thus contribute disproportionately to those species larval production.”
Researchers suggest three reasons for the finding: first, platforms physically occupy more of the water-column than most natural outcrops; second, because there are fewer large fish in the mid-water habitat where the platforms are located, predation is likely lower; and third, the offshore location and extreme height of the platforms “provide great delivery rates of planktonic food for young fishes.”
Essentially, the mere existence of oil platform structures could contribute to an increase in California’s rockfish populations and have the potential to make significant economic contributions to the commercial fishing industry as well.