Sean van Elden and Thomas Tothill | 2019
Malpelo Island, Colombia.
Photo: Chris Thompson
In collaboration with Vermilion Oil and Gas Australia (VOGA) we are investigating the ecology of offshore oil and gas platforms. Many of the world’s oil and gas platforms will reach their end-of-life in the next 10-20 years, with the global decommissioning industry expected to be worth US$82 Billion by 2040. Conventional thinking and international and national legislation prescribe that these platforms be removed in their entirety upon decommissioning. However, these platforms have been a part of the marine environment for more than 20 years which means that they have become ‘novel ecosystems’ in themselves.
This PhD project aims to assess the community structure of both benthic and pelagic species surrounding the subsea structures in the Wandoo Field, 70km offshore of Dampier, Western Australia. Wandoo will be used as a case study to form the basis for classifying offshore oil and gas platforms as novel ecosystems. The expedition team, consisting of PhD candidate Sean van Elden and MSc candidate Thomas Tothill, live and work aboard the Jetwave Maddison and deploy seabed and mid-water BRUVS around the subsea infrastructure in the Wandoo Field, as well as at two nearby control sites. Approximately 350 hours of video footage are collected on each expedition. The team is also conducting aerial transects using a drone to survey marine fauna at the surface.
The study area for this project is situated on the north-west shelf of Australia, 70 km offshore of Dampier, Western Australia. It consists of an active offshore oil field and two control sites each located approximately 15 km from the platform. The Wandoo Field Site is approximately 55 m deep and encompasses the unmanned monopod Wandoo A, the Concrete Gravity Substructure (CGS) Wandoo B, the Catenary Anchor Leg Mooring (CALM) Buoy, and associated subsea pipelines. Control site 1 is in a similar water depth to the Wandoo Field site and is characterised by significant physical relief, in the form of a natural reef, rising to a depth of approximately 30 m below the surface. Control site 2 is similarly located in an area approximately the same depth as Wandoo, but has no physical relief and is characteristic of the Wandoo Field Site pre-installation of infrastructure.
The Wandoo Field is located 70km offshore of Dampier, Western Australia
FUNDING & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
UWA acknowledges the assistance provided to it by the operators of the Wandoo oil platform, Vermilion Oil and Gas Australia.As a responsible oil and gas producer, Vermilion Energy has publicly declared that it prioritizes people and the environment over profitability.
The Company’s contribution to this project both in terms of providing a PhD scholarship and field costs has enabled UWA to undertake this important research.
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