The publication of the Kolian and Sammarco (2005) EcoRigs Technical Report: Mariculture and Other Use for Offshore Oil and Gas Platforms: Rational for Retaining Infrastructure was instrumental in the creation of Section 388 of the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005 (Public Law [PL] 109-58) which authorizes the use of Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) facilities (offshore platforms) for alternate uses. On June 29th 2009, the Obama Administration and Minerals Management Service (MMS) implemented the “Renewable Energy and Alternate Uses of Existing Facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf” program (30 CFR 285.1000 Subpart J). This provides MMS with the authority to issue an Alternate Use (AU) Right-of-Use Easement (RUE) to applicants to use retired platforms for “marine related purposes”. These permits (AU RUE) allow retired platforms to remain in the water, after oil and gas production ends, to be used for renewable energy, greenhouse gas sequestration, artificial reefs, etc. We have great optimism for the groundwork that was constructed with the implementation of these regulations; however, there is a piece that is missing in the legal framework.
The successful implementation of the new Alternate Use (AU) program will depend on a clearly defined authorization to transfer the primary liability of the retired platforms from the previous oil and gas operator to the Alternate Use, Right of Use and Easement (AU RUE) applicant. This liability issue is not addressed in the new Renewable Energy and Alternate Uses of Existing Facilities on the OCS, 30 CFR 285.1000, Subpart J. The ability to transfer the primary responsibility for the eventual removal of the platform from the former oil and gas operator to the AU RUE applicant is not present in 30 CFR 285.1018.
The significance of transferring the liability to the AU RUE applicant is evident in the “Rigs to Reefs Act” which has appeared in six legislative Bills presented to the 109th, 110th and 111th Congress. The central theme in the “Rigs to Reefs Act” is the authorization to transfer the liability of the platform removal from the oil and gas operator to an Alternate Use applicant. It is critical that the “Rigs to Reefs Act” is included as part of upcoming energy legislation. It is widely known in the oil and gas industry that this issue must be addressed before offshore operators would transfer retired platforms.
See “Rigs to Reef Act”.