LONDON – The UK’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) has appointed Intertek Energy & Water to study the potential impacts associated with rock dumping during the decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure on mobile sandbanks.
The study will focus on the North Sea’s North Norfolk and Saturn Reef Candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC) and Site of Community Importance (SCI), which include a series of 10 main sandbanks and associated fragmented smaller banks formed as a result of tidal processes as well as biogenic (Sabelaria spinulosa) reefs.
The study will compare typical sediment profiles and characteristics associated with oil and gas rock dumping operations, with those within North Norfolk and Saturn Reef cSAC/SCI. It will also assess the potential physical impacts that rock dumping, associated with oil and gas decommissioning, may have on mobile sandbanks and their biological communities, taking into account their size and natural variability.
Improving the understanding of how decommissioning operations can affect these features will help ensure that protected sites such as these reach favorable condition and are able to maximize their contribution to the marine protected area network.
In addition, Intertek said that improving understanding will also enable more accurate advice to regulators and other interested parties, will support site specific and national impact assessments, and allow competent authorities to undertake a more robust decision-making process.