U.S. makes the first step towards decommissioning of oil & gas assets off California

The U.S. government has made the first step in its review for decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure off the coast of Southern California, starting the process of permanently ending operations at eight platforms and their associated pipelines.

BSEE - decommissioning
Source: BSEE

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) last week invited the public to comment on a proposal to conduct a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for decommissioning oil and gas platforms and other facilities on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf.

The Notice of Intent to prepare a PEIS was published in Federal Register and the input gathered will inform the scope of the PEIS and identify potentially relevant information, studies, and analyses to inform future decommissioning application decisions.

Following the publication of this NOI, the public will have an opportunity to submit comments for 45 days. The agency expects to release a draft environmental review in February 2022 and the final in June 2022.

“This is the first step toward a robust and efficient review of anticipated applications for decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure off the California coast”, said Mike Mitchell, acting BSEE Pacific Region Director.

“Throughout the process, federal, state, and local governmental agencies, along with all other interested parties, will have an opportunity to provide comments and alternatives for analysis as we prepare the PEIS under the National Environmental Policy Act”.

The preliminary proposed action is to authorize applications for complete removal of platforms and other facilities, including pipelines, and clearing the seafloor of all obstructions created by the lease or right-of-way operations on the Pacific OCS off the Southern California coast.

In addition to the proposed action and a No Action alternative, an alternative for partial removal of platforms and associated facilities and pipelines will be evaluated. The proposed action and the alternative will evaluate various decommissioning tools and techniques for removal of OCS platforms, associated facilities, and pipelines.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is assisting BSEE in the preparation of the environmental analysis but has no role in approving decommissioning applications.

According to the bureau of safety, there are currently 23 oil and gas platforms off the Southern California coast, installed between the late 1960s and 1990, and all are subject to eventual decommissioning.

Pacific Decommissioning Overview Map
Pacific decommissioning overview map

Currently, eight oil and gas platforms on the OCS offshore Southern California, near Point Conception and in the Santa Barbara Channel, no longer produce oil and gas and are located on terminated leases that no longer allow resumption of production. BSEE expects to receive decommissioning applications for these platforms and associated pipelines and other facilities in the near term.

It is currently unknown when decommissioning may be initiated for the remaining 15 platforms, though by regulation an initial platform removal application must be submitted for Pacific OCS facilities at least two years before production is projected to cease.

The Center for Biological Diversity, a national, non-profit conservation organization, welcomed the move.

Kristen Monsell, legal director of the oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity, said: “We’re glad to see this announcement and hope it signals the end of drilling off California’s coast.

“The oil industry has wreaked havoc in our ocean for far too long. It’s time for companies to clean up the mess of platforms and pipelines that litter our beautiful marine environment”.

The announcement comes as the Biden administration is reviewing the government’s leasing and permitting practices for fossil fuel development on federal lands and waters.

“We strongly agree with the Biden administration that getting these rigs completely out of the water is the best way to protect California’s fragile coastal ecosystems”, Monsell said.