The National Decommissioning Research Initiative (NDRI) will allocate approximately $2.3 million from 2019-22 to improve understanding of the interaction that occurs between the environment and oil and gas structures in Australia’s oceans. In particular, the NDRI seeks to improve understanding of how full removal or potential decommissioning in-situ may impact on the marine environment.
The program is funded by eight industry partners and delivered by the Australian Government’s Industry Growth Centre for energy, NERA (National Energy Resources Australia).
Decommissioning is the process of removing or otherwise satisfactorily dealing with offshore petroleum property (plant and equipment) and petroleum wells (collectively referred to as infrastructure), in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, at the end of its useful life.
According to Australian Government Guidelines, the complete removal of infrastructure and the plugging and abandonment of petroleum wells is the default decommissioning requirement under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act.
Options other than complete removal may be considered, however the titleholder must demonstrate that the alternative decommissioning approach delivers equal or better environmental, safety and well integrity outcomes compared to complete removal, and that the approach complies with all other legislative and regulatory requirements – including requirements under other Commonwealth laws
NDRI Background & Role
Australian law requires companies to investigate full removal of all oil and gas structures at the end of their productive life.
However, over time, these structures can promote the development of significant marine communities, including fish and corals.
The NDRI has been established to improve understanding across industry, government and the community of the effect of leaving or removing these facilities from the ocean.
In 2017, several members of the Australian oil and gas sector committed to pursuing a collaborative effort to undertake research into the influence that infrastructure has on the oceans.
In 2019, the NDRI was formally established with initial funding of $2.3 available to undertake research through to 2022.
The NDRI is modelled on a successful program delivered in the North Sea, which is part of the Atlantic Ocean between the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
This program, named INSITE (INfluence of man made Structures In The Ecosystem), began in 2012 and has recently commenced a second phase of work.
Further resources are listed below.
Initial objectives for the NDRI are to improve understanding of:
- Potential impact from decommissioning O&G structures on life in the marine environment; and
- Potential contaminants released in the marine environment if structures remain in-situ.
Many of the projects in the first phase of research will seek to lay the foundation for larger and longer research studies.
Further detail on the research program is available on the Research page.
The NDRI is funded by eight industry partners:
- Shell Australia Pty Ltd
- Esso Australia Pty Ltd
- Chevron Australia Pty Ltd
- BHP Petroleum Pty Ltd
- Woodside Energy Ltd
- Santos Limited
- ConocoPhillips Pipeline Australia Pty Ltd
- Vermilion Oil and Gas Australia Ltd
Together, these companies comprise the Executive Committee of the NDRI. Further information is available under Governance.
Interest piqued? Further information on decommissioning is available on the NERA website. You can also check out these key resources:
- Australian Government, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, ‘Offshore Petroleum Decommissioning Guideline‘ (2018).
- Australian Government, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, ‘Discussion Paper – Decommissioning Offshore Petroleum Infrastructure in Commonwealth Waters‘ (2018).
- National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, ‘Meeting your obligations for decommissioning‘ (2019).
- Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, ‘Offshore Oil and Gas Decommissioning Decision-making Guidelines‘ (2016).
- Western Australian Marine Science Institute, ‘Decommissioning offshore infrastructure: a review of stakeholders views and science priorities‘ (2018).
- Advisian, ‘Scientific Literature Review: Environmental Impacts of Decommissioning Options‘ (2017).