How Offshore Oil Rigs Help Reef Fish Thrive


thriving coral reef on an oil rigYou may not know it, but offshore oil platforms make fantastic artificial reefs – creating a thriving marine environment. Once installed, the support structure for the oil rig provides a safe haven for coral and fish, boosting population in an otherwise barren environment.


With such a valuable resource already established, a program exists to keep the rig base once the production platform is decommissioned.

Typically, an oil platform in the U.S. has to be removed within a year of well closure. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is able to approve a variance to this rule if the appropriate state and the Army Corps of Engineers agree. When this happens, a platform is able to be part of the Rigs-to-Reefs program.

Once a variance is permitted, an old oil platform can become an artificial reef. These rig bones can be moved to a better location, cut in half, or simply toppled over. With the habitat already established, keeping the artificial reef just makes sense.

Environmental Impact

While there is a bit of debate from environmentalist groups, both experts and research agree that preserving oil platforms as artificial reefs is hugely beneficial to the marine environment.

The program is most prevalent in the Gulf of Mexico, where the lack of natural reef structures has made it difficult for many species to thrive. One of the more commercially important examples is the Red Snapper, which is native to the Gulf of Mexico, but relies on coral reef for habitat.

What marine biologists are learning that land managers have long known is that habitat is the foundation to conservation, and the Rigs-to-Reefs program provides critical habitat.

Monitoring The Program

One of the groups monitoring the Rigs-to-Reefs program is Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. They survey reef sites in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas, identifying signs of ecosystem health, such as marine species and life spans. The video explains the Rigs-to-Reefs program and some results from their research.

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source: via Flow Control Magazine

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