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July 19, 2013
BSEE revises artificial reef policy

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has revised an internal policy to expedite the conversion of obsolete offshore oil and natural gas production platforms into artificial reefs.

BSEE regulations require the removal of production platforms.   The regulations also allow keeping a structure in the marine environment as an artificial reef if it meets certain structural requirements and provides a valuable biological function.  Also, the structure must be accepted into the Rigs-to-Reefs program, which the BSEE has developed with states. 

In general, under the program, after all hazardous materials have been removed, the platform can be dismantled and towed to designated reefing area or may be reefed in place under certain conditions.  In each case, the state assumes liability for the structure. As of September 2012, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and California have passed legislation to establish programs for building artificial reefs from oil and gas platforms.      

Buffer restriction removed

The new interim policy replaces a policy addendum issued by BSEE’s predecessor agency in 2009.  The new policy removes the requirement for a 5-mile buffer zone between designated reefing areas along with certain restrictions to reefing in place.  The revised policy also provides an extension to regulatory decommissioning deadlines for facilities provided companies are actively pursuing acceptance of the facility into a state program.  Storm-toppled platforms are eliminated from consideration as artificial reefs.

Standards

Engineering and environmental standards in the revised policy include:

  • The structure must be stable and not endanger nearby infrastructure and/or protected resources.
  • Debris piles, debris fields, and/or reef baskets will not be allowed.
  • Reefing will not be permitted in areas of seafloor instability, mudflows, and other geohazards that may have an impact on the stability of the structure.
  • In its final disposition, the structure must be situated in the most stable orientation.
  • The structure must be free from all potentially hazardous and nonstructural items.  Decks may be considered for reef material if all nonstructural components are removed, including equipment, vessels, piping/tubing, and wiring, and a facility inspection is conducted and documented by the BSEE or an approved third-party before reefing.
  • Reef sites must not hinder future oil and gas, marine mineral, and/or renewable energy/alternative activity operations under the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands Act.
  • Reef sites must not lead to avoidable space-use conflicts with other users of the OCS; this is primarily a concern for structures to be reefed in place.
  • Severance methodologies must consider habitat preservation and reefing orientation as well as properly balancing personnel safety with environmental concerns.

The BSEE says the revised policy reflects feedback received from the states, energy companies, and other stakeholders on ways to improve the Rigs-to-Reefs program.

Click here for the revised policy.

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