Project 1.1 – Habitat value of O&G infrastructure.

Full Project Title

Assessing the habitat value of oil and gas infrastructure for fish and other marine organisms

NDRI Reference

Project 1.1

Project Proponents

Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) with University of Technology Sydney (UTS)

Delivery

Q2 2022

Objective

To determine the habitat value associated with decommissioning Australia’s O&G infrastructure.

Background

Australia’s north-west has high species diversity, globally significant populations of threatened species and commercially valuable fish species.

The south-east has high species endemism, many protected and migratory species, and important commercial fisheries. Together these regions also possess ~5000 km of pipelines, ~3000 wells and 43 platforms supporting a globally significant oil and gas (O&G) industry. It is important that we understand how marine life interacts with O&G infrastructure in order to inform regulatory and industry decisions, including those associated with decommissioning.

O&G structures provide novel habitat that can support diverse and abundant marine life, including fishery-targeted and threatened species. O&G structures may also facilitate the establishment and spread of invasive marine pests. Investigation of the diversity and distribution of marine life associated with structures is required on local and regional scales, to obtain an understanding of their role as habitat as well as ecological risks associated with decommissioning alternatives. Further, understanding how marine life (across its life stages) utilises structures and whether/how this differs to natural ecosystems will ultimately provide insights into production value, ecological importance and how different decommissioning options might affect this ecological role.

This project will analyse historical ROV video to document marine life associated with O&G structures and assess how this compares to natural reef ecosystems. The production value of O&G structures will be examined by comparing time series data for key fishery target species and habitat structural complexity on natural reef ecosystems. Further, by examining factors that influence marine life including environmental (e.g. depth, temp) and physical factors (e.g. structure age, height, distance to natural reefs), we can predict the environmental impacts of different decommissioning options on marine life in addition to better understand the broader impacts of structures in marine ecosystems.

Objectives

Using historical industry ROV imagery and AIMS databases on natural reef ecosystems, the project will address a series of ecological objectives to advance our understanding of the influence of Australia’s O&G infrastructure on life in the marine environment.

  • Objective 1: How does epibenthic community diversity, cover and complexity and the diversity, abundance and size of fish (and other fauna) vary by O&G infrastructure type, region and depth?
  • Objective 2: What is the habitat value of O&G infrastructure for valuable fishery species?
  • Objective 3: How does marine life associated with O&G infrastructure compare to those in adjacent natural ecosystems?