Project 1 – Habitat value of O&G infrastructure.

Full Project Title

Habitat value of O&G infrastructure, particularly for commercially or recreationally important fish and other important species (including rare, threatened and iconic).

NDRI Reference

RP1-Pro1 (Research Program 1 – Project 1)

Objective

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

Background

Human-made infrastructure in the oceans can have impacts – both positive and negative – on marine life.

Research has shown that O&G infrastructure off the coast of California have the highest secondary fish production per unit area of seafloor of any marine habitat ever studied and can help improve local fish production and help restore depleted fish stocks. However O&G infrastructure may cause undesired changes to marine food webs, or concentrate fish populations, making them easier to exploit.

Through analysis of historical video archives collected by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) during routine industry operations, this project seeks to understand which organisms are inhabiting Australia’s offshore O&G infrastructure (such as pipelines, jackets and wells). Where possible, this project will investigate the degree to which the infrastructure influence marine life (i.e. production as opposed to attraction) and how different decommissioning options affect their ecological function/performance.

This is a first step towards understanding the positive and negative impacts of decommissioning of O&G infrastructure on habitat value.

Questions
  1. How does the abundance, biomass, and diversity of fish communities (and other organisms) vary by O&G infrastructure type, region and depth?
  2. Are Australia’s O&G infrastructure providing ecologically-meaningful habitat, including (where feasible) relative to natural habitats such as natural reefs and bottom sediments, and the proportion of fish contributing to local commercial fish extraction?
  3. Can analysis of existing ROV footage provide insight into the ecological function/performance (such as growth and reproduction) of O&G infrastructure and how different decommissioning options can affect the ecological function/performance?
  4. Can we extrapolate or scale the results of analysis to understand broader infrastructure impacts?
Approach

We have a broad interest in assessing fish, invertebrate, marine mammal and ecologically-important populations.

We want to be able to scale up results, to the extent that existing data allows, to broadly assess the impact of O&G infrastructure decommissioning. One potential scaling approach would be to develop a model (using presence and absence) to predict diversity, abundance, biomass and evidence of productivity of fish and benthic habitats in waters of the North West, Northern Territory, Bass Strait) relative to infrastructure type (e.g. pipelines, wellheads and platforms/jackets etc) and water depths.

To complete this project, proponents will be given access to an archive of industry ROV footage taken from Australian O&G infrastructure and no further fieldwork is expected.

This footage has generally been recorded for the purposes of routine industry operations, such as inspection, maintenance and repair, and not specifically to assess life in the marine environment. However, past experience suggests that this footage can be strategically assessed to address the questions framed under this project.

The footage varies in quality, frequency of collection, types of infrastructure examined (including platform jackets, well heads, pipelines, manifolds and stabilisation structures), conditions (such as depths and weather), location (such as North West Shelf, Northern Territory and Bass Strait) and method of collection. It will focus on the past five years, with earlier footage available if required.

The ISAB strongly encourages applicants to:

  • review global decommissioning studies that can provide insight into optimally leveraging opportunistic ecological information. Some of this is available through the NDRI Scientific Library (ndriaustralia.org).
  • understand the availability, quantity, and limitations of this footage to help inform their proposed approach. Sample footage, which is indicative of a ‘good quality’ ROV survey in Australia’s North West, can be obtained through the project page on the NDRI website (ndriaustralia.org).
Materials

Sample ROV footage is provided below. (Note: set video quality to HD 1080p in the video player for best experience).

Applications