14 EPA J. 35 (1988)
What to Do With Those Old Oil Rigs

handle is hein.journals/epajrnl14 and id is 208 raw text is: What to Do
With Those
Old Oil Rigs
by Clay Fulghum
W hat's almost twice as tall as the
Washington Monument, weighs
hundreds of tons, and attracts visitors of
both the two-legged and finned
persuasions?
Actually, the riddle has multiple
answers, all in the form of oil-drilling
platforms, most of them in the Gulf of
Mexico. These platforms, or rigs, as they
are often called, can extend to depths of
1,000 feet and more. They have become
popular gathering spots for a variety of
sea creatures from barnacles to
barracuda-as well as for enthusiastic
sport and commercial fishermen.

The platforms-over 4,000 in U.S. and
state waters-are susceptible to the
ravages of time, not to mention weather.
And not only that. The oil fields
beneath them are being used up. In fact,
over 1,500 platforms will be retired and
dismantled between now and the year
2,000 at a cost that the National
Research Council has estimated at over
$1 billion.
They'll be retired, that is, unless
another use can be found for them.
Enter Villere Reggio, point man for
the Rigs-to-Reefs program of the
Minerals Management Service (MMS),
Department of Interior. He thinks it
would be imprudent at best to scrap the
4,000 acres of marine habitat now
provided by producing platforms in the
Gulf and points to the fact that offshore
oil and gas structures can act as
excellent artificial reefs, attracting
bryozoans, mussels, mollusca,
anemones, sponges, corals, crabs,
shrimp, red snapper, grouper, and
others too numerous to name, to form a
complete food web.
So, Reggio says, take advantage of a
good thing. Instead of paying millions of
dollars to establish artificial reefs out of
other materials, as the United States and

other countries are now doing, use the
materials at hand. Make the oil
companies happy, along with
environmentalists, fishermen, and fish.
An easy solution; everybody wins.
Unfortunately, it's not quite as simple
as he suggests; even though the program
is gaining momentum with 10 such
rigs-turned-reefs already in place and
others well on the way to changing from
oil producers to fish habitats.
In fact, it might be argued that
determining exactly how to deal with
aging oil platforms is the really
challenging riddle, and there are a
variety of answers.
Some charge, for example, that
converting oil and gas structure to reefs
is a way for oil companies to avoid
expensive disposal procedures, which
can easily cost $1-4 million per
platform.
Says Sally Ann Lentz, an attorney for
the Oceanic Society: It's an excuse for
dumping; it's not based on a scientific
need for a structure.
Citing a potential for navigational
hazards that could lead to pollution
incidents, she contends that oil
platforms worldwide should be
completely removed when their useful

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-7 ~ ~ '

This 300-ton oil rig platform was barged from Louisiana to offshore Florida to become an artificial reef. It was placed on its side near
Pensacola about 175-feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico. Not shown, the platform's upper section was placed nearby Tenneco Inc photo
JUNE 1988                                                                                                  35

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