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Ecotoxicological effects of decommissioning offshore petroleum infrastructure: A systematic review


MacIntosh, A and Dafforn, K and Penrose, B and Chariton, A and Cresswell, T, Ecotoxicological effects of decommissioning offshore petroleum infrastructure: A systematic review, Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology pp. 1-39. ISSN 1064-3389 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

Copyright 2021 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

DOI: doi:10.1080/10643389.2021.1917949


Successful decommissioning of subsea oil and gas infrastructure requires a safe and effective approach to assess and manage waste products. These products, often present as scale on internals of pipelines, include naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) and trace metals. Understanding the potential effects of these contaminants on marine fauna is crucial to managing global decommissioning. This review is composed of two aspects: 1) a systematic review was conducted to synthesize literature on all contaminants associated with decommissioned offshore structures and the effects of NORM contaminants on marine organisms; 2) a critical review of current environmental regulations for decommissioning and characterization of petroleum scale and NORM components. Studies defining the chemical and radiological contaminants associated with decommissioned structures were very limited. The main source of contaminants was identified from offshore platforms, with none from subsea structures. Only three studies measured variable chemical effects of radium to organisms from scale materials in subsea oil and gas infrastructure. No studies measured effects on organisms from other NORM, such as lead-210 and polonium-210. Currently, there are no international regulations on subsea pipeline closure, with NORM being underreported and not addressed in environmental impact assessments. This review highlights research gaps from environmental monitoring and characterization of NORM associated with decommissioned structures. Key recommendations for future research include characterizing NORM scale and assessing effects of scale to marine organisms through direct organism exposure experiments. This review emphasizes the need to incorporate ecotoxicology into environmental risk assessment for offshore petroleum decommissioning.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:NORM, naturally occurring radioactive materials, radioecology, oil, gas, ecotoxicology, decommissioning
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Ecological applications
Research Field:Bioavailability and ecotoxicology
Objective Division:Energy
Objective Group:Energy exploration
Objective Field:Oil and gas exploration
UTAS Author:Penrose, B (Dr Beth Penrose)
ID Code:144294
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:13
Deposited By:Agriculture and Food Systems
Deposited On:2021-05-10
Last Modified:2021-06-03
Downloads:26 View Download Statistics

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