Hydrocarbon exploration and infrastructure

Increased demand for energy sources has led the search for oil and gas into greater depths. To date, there are limited studies that have investigated the direct negative affect on cold-water reefs, but some suggest the smothering of corals from the dispersal of drill cuttings (Lepland and Buhl Mortensen, 2008). Deep-sea mining could be detrimental to the biodiversity of reefs due to physical damage and the release of toxic metals and substances. Another reason for this is the smothering from sediment plumes as shown with warm water species (Roberts et al., 2009). Cold-water reefs may follow the suit of warm water species with disrupted feeding, morphology and physiological functioning as a result of ecotoxicological exposure (Foster, 1980; Krone and Briggs, 1980). These issues are also relevant for the installation of underwater cables for communication or pipelines, especially  physical damage to corals when pipes are being laid (Freiwald et al., 2004). Some studies have found cold-water corals growing on oil installations such as those in the North Sea (Gass and Roberts, 2006) shown in Fig.8, suggesting some level of tolerance to such activities, with more studies needed to verify the tolerance levels.

Fig.8. Colonies of L.pertusa growing on a North Sea platform. Adapted from Gass and Roberts (2006).

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