The temperate waters of California support a number of offshore oil and gas structures including platforms, pipelines, piers, and other associated infrastructure. Temperate environments support some of the Earth’s most diverse and productive marine ecosystems found such as complex rocky reefs, vast sand flats, and dense kelp forests. As the offshore oil and gas infrastructure ages, decisions will need to be made for the decommissioning outcome for each structure. A number of options exist for operators and regulators for decommissioning offshore infrastructure ranging from full removal to various leave-in-place methods. One of the key decision points that need to be considered when making decommissioning decisions is the ultimate ecological value of the particular option chosen. This review describes the specific decommissioning options available for platforms in California, and studies specifically related to determining ecological value of those options. Several scientific studies to determine ecological value at platform and decommissioning sites have been conducted recently. These have included observations of marine communities using submersibles, remotely operated vehicles, divers, and other experimental methods. Data presented in this review support the conclusion that leave-in-place options, especially various reefing methods, can support highly valuable marine communities and further support the utility of using leave-in-place options such as reefing to determine the ultimate fate of the offshore infrastructure in California.

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