In a global first, marine growth found on the legs, known as jackets, of decommissioned oil and gas platforms could form the basis of new novel aquafeed, as researchers look at ways to reuse the material, which can include seaweed, mussels and coral.
The environmentally responsible decommissioning company, CessCon Decom, has teamed up with researchers at Abertay University to explore how marine growth – a waste byproduct of the decommissioning process – can be recycled and reused. In line with forecasts from Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), the feasibility study, which is supported by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), could result in up to 40,000 tonnes of marine growth found on platform jackets being recycled over the next decade.
Current European regulations prohibit energy companies from leaving behind any part of a disused platform, stating that operators must return sites to a clean seabed. CessCon’s decommissioning model already sees over 99% of decommissioned materials recycled, but the company is working towards 100%.
At the end of a platform’s lifecycle, various types of marine species are found on the underwater jacket. Algae, seaweed, mussels, anemones, and hard and soft coral can be found at different depths, depending on environmental conditions in the water. One of the aims of the project is to gain a better understanding of the matter that is typically found, including the composition of fatty acids and proteins which could be turned into feed ingredients for other sectors.
Karen Seath, environment and regulatory affairs director at CessCon, said that “as the North Sea oil and gas sector matures, the decommissioning sector has an incredibly important role to play in making sure that the parts of those installations which are no longer in use and are required to be brought to shore are disposed of safely and responsibly.”
“Our process is built around circular economy principles and we have set an ambitious target to reach the point where 100% of the decommissioned materials brought onshore are reused, reconditioned, refurbished or recycled. At the moment, marine growth is typically sent to landfills or incinerated, but we recognize the opportunity to do more and use this waste to support the supply chains of other sectors.
The study follows a 2018 collaboration between Abertay University and Scottish fishing net manufacturer W&J Knox Ltd, which saw waste material collected on nets turned into livestock feed.
Boon-Seang Chu, lecturer in food science at Abertay University, said, “our previous research has shown that the proteins and fatty acids, such as omega-3s, contained in aquaculture waste can become valuable feed ingredients for agriculture and aquaculture. This study is about understanding the nutritional composition of the marine growth retrieved from decommissioned rigs, whether onshore or offshore and the feasibility of recovering proteins and fatty acids from the waste materials. The results of this work will help advise follow-on steps of the project.”