From the first signature on a lease, offshore operators know that they will have to clean up the area after they drill and produce hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas) and decommission the facilities and structures placed on the leased area, also called Plug and Abandonment (P & A).
The most common way to reclaim a site includes removing the superstructure and often selling it as scrap metal. Other situations may require that the structure be dismantled and removed, such as damage incurred from a storm, use of different equipment on the original structure or another company using the well. Any operation that is decommissioned and is no longer “economically viable,” infrastructure that is severely damaged or idle infrastructure on active leases, are considered “idle iron” according to NTL 2018-G03.
BSEE's Idle Iron policy keeps inactive facilities and structures from littering the Gulf of Mexico by requiring companies to dismantle and responsibly dispose of infrastructure after they plug non-producing wells. BSEE enforces these lease agreements primarily for two reasons beyond the CFR requirement:
- Environmental effects –toppled structures pose a potential environmental hazard due to the topsides and the associated equipment, electronics, wiring, piping, tanks, etc., that are left on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. These items pose a financial, safety and environmental burden, and must be removed from the bottom
- Safety – Severe weather such as hurricanes, have toppled, severely damaged or destroyed the structures associated with oil and gas production. While any structure could be destroyed during a hurricane, idle facilities pose an unnecessary risk of leaks from wells into the environment and potential damage to the ecosystem, passing ships and commercial fishermen.