Subject / Decommissioning FAQs

How many Rigs-to-Reefs proposals has BSEE approved? Denied?

Since 1986, the Department of the Interior has approved over 550 Rigs-to-Reefs proposals and has denied six. The reasons for denying a reefing proposal were mainly due to proximity to OCS infrastructure, especially active oil or gas pipelines. Additionally, BSEE has denied reefing proposals where the proposed reef site was located in a potential mudslide area and where the proposed site was located outside of a reef planning area.

What methods are used for platform removal and reefing in the Rigs-to-Reefs process?

There are three methods for converting a non-producing platform into an artificial reef: (1) partially remove the platform; (2) topple the platform in place; and (3) tow-and-place the platform into a reefing area. Note that partial removal and toppling in place are methods of “reefing in place.” Partial removal typically relies on non-explosive means to cut the platform at levels of no less than 85 feet below the mean waterline. Compared to toppling in place, partial removals result in higher reef profiles and less trauma and loss of platform uses by associated reef organisms.

How are platforms removed? Are explosives used?

OCSLA regulations require the operator to sever bottom-founded objects and their related components at least 15 feet below the mudline before removal. Platform operators typically use one of two primary options to sever structures attached to the sea bottom- “mechanical severance” or “explosive severance” methods. BSEE regulations do not mandate which method or tool is to be used, as not all cutting options work in every single situation.

What is the process for establishing reefing areas?

Proper development and implementation of an artificial reef program requires an understanding of the applicable legal, ecological, social, and economic aspects of developing and maintaining artificial reefs. Thus, each State program’s methods to establish reef planning areas tend to differ. In general, most reef planning areas are established through some form of exclusion mapping and inclusion mapping followed by public hearings.

Can inactive oil and gas platforms be marked for navigation and left standing in place?

In general, under OCSLA and DOI’s implementing regulations, non-producing platforms must be removed because they can create serious safety, environmental, and navigational risks. Abandoned platforms may deteriorate, making them more susceptible to structural failure, or can be toppled by hurricanes, potentially damaging neighboring active infrastructure. Under certain circumstances, a platform may remain in place for the creation of an artificial reef; this is known as reefing-in-place, which differs from abandonment of the platform.

What are the roles of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Rigs-to-Reefs?

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has broad authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to protect natural resources of the OCS. With the reorganization of the Department of the Interior’s Mineral Management Service, the role of DOI in Rigs-to-Reefs was split, as follows: Within DOI, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is responsible for regulatory, safety, environmental and conservation compliance for the development of the nation’s offshore oil and gas and renewable energy resources.

How many designated reefing areas exist in the Gulf of Mexico?

The Gulf of Mexico OCS currently has 11 designated reefing areas. In addition, BSEE is currently working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to develop two new artificial reef planning areas off the coast of Corpus Christi. The State of Texas has designated a large reefing area in the High Island OCS area where the reefing option is available for obsolete oil and gas structures subject to the terms and conditions of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers general permit.

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