PhD Supervisors:
Professor Marcel Jaspars,
School of Natural and Computing Sciences,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/m.jaspars/ ). Email: m.jaspars@abdn.ac.uk,
Tel: +441224272895

Professor Frithjof Kuepper,
School of Biological Sciences,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/fkuepper/ ). Email: fkuepper@abdn.ac.uk,
Tel: +441224274490

PhD Student:
Jessica Gomez-Banderas (j.gomez-banderas.19@abdn.ac.uk),  Tel: tel:+441224274409

Project Partners: Tritonia Scientific Ltd

Summary:
Fouling on marine immersed structures is a multi-billion pound issue for the offshore industry, requiring mechanical removal of foulants. Since the banning of tin-based antifoulants there are few effective strategies to prevent fouling by marine invertebrates and algae. An improved understanding of the stages of biofouling in temperate and tropical waters is essential to find ecologically friendly and sustainable remedies. In this proposal we will use chemical ecology methods to understand the process of fouling using key species. We will use ecological cues, such as marine invertebrates and algae which lack fouling, to select species to discover natural antifoulants. The key aim is to discover new antifoulants and the objectives are:

  1. Survey offshore structures for key fouling organisms.
  2. Select model organisms from these for the antifouling tests.
  3. Collect marine invertebrates and algae which are not fouled and extract these using organic solvents.
  4. Use an activity guided iterative purification/testing process using the model organisms in (2) and the extract from (3) to isolate the antifouling agents.
  5. To structurally characterise the antifoulants using spectroscopic methods and determine their antifouling characteristics.
  6. To work with industry to begin the process of incorporating these antifoulants into coatings and test these in real-world situations.

PhD Supervisors:
Dr Alireza Maheri,
School of Engineering,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/alireza.maheri/ ). Email: alireza.maheri@abdn.ac.uk,
Tel: +441224272501

Professor Ana Ivanovic,
School of Engineering,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/a.ivanovic/). Email: a.ivanovic@abdn.ac.uk ,
Tel: +441224273265

Professor Wamberto Vasconcelos,
School of Natural and Computing Sciences,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/w.w.vasconcelos/). Email: w.w.vasconcelos@abdn.ac.uk ,
Tel:+441224272283

PhD Student:
Adam Arfaoui (a.arfaoui.19@abdn.ac.uk), Tel: +441224274409

Summary:
Decommissioning is an event driven process with significant technical and operational challenge which requires a great deal of decision makings. At planning stage, critical decisions are made in terms of the removal technologies to be employed for the platforms and pipelines, dismantling order and steps, shipping method, recycling method, and the possibility of reutilisation for other purposes. Any decision made will affect the cost, operational risk and environment. This project aims at the development of a decision support system (DSS) which will be based on the state-of-the-art of decision making under uncertainties and optimisation methods with the following functions:

  1. for a given field, produces and shows various decommissioning scenarios by considering all possible combinations of dismantling steps and orders, removal and recycling methods, and the possibility of reutilisation,
  2. for each scenario evaluates the associated cost, risk and environmental impact by evaluating each event in that scenario, and
  3. provides a non-subjective means of multicriteria trade-off study between different scenarios.

Experts in decommissioning regulations, marine life, recycling and environment will be consulted to ensure the implementation of all limitations, constraints, and potential impacts in the decision support system.

PhD Supervisors:
Dr Astley Hastings,
School of Biological Sciences,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/astley.hastings/). Email: astley.hastings@abdn.ac.uk

Dr Alison Brand,
School of Biological Sciences,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/alison.brand/).  Email: alison.brand@abdn.ac.uk

PhD Student:
Abigail Davies (a.davies.19@abdn.ac.uk ), Tel:+441224274409

Summary:
There are many offshore structures and installations used for the extraction of oil and gas and for renewable energy with a limited life that have to be decommissioned, a process governed by international and UK laws and regulation. These include the requirement to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment for decommissioning each facility, which focuses on the impact on biological and socio-economic receptors. Currently the GHG emissions associated with decommissioning are not evaluated in-depth as the life cycle assessment process is complex. This omission conflicts with the law to reduce UK GHG emissions to 20% of those in 1990 by 2050.

Decommissioning is an energy intensive process with marine operations requiring large equipment and many ship-miles and operating time. There are GHG costs associated with waste disposal and recycling of materials. The GHG emissions caused by the decommissioning process can be very high but depend on the amount of infrastructure removed and methods used. This project intends to investigate the energy and GHG intensity of each decommissioning operation and build an open access application that can be easily used by offshore operators on a routine basis for decommissioning EIA’s to assess the impact of the various options on GHG emissions.

PhD Supervisors:

Dr Waheed Afzal,
School of Engineering,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/waheed/). Email: waheed@abdn.ac.uk,
Tel:+441224272526

Dr Claudia F. Martin,
School of Engineering,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/cfmartin/ ). Email: cfmartin@abdn.ac.uk,
Tel: +441224273264

Dr David Vega-Maza,
School of Engineering,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/d.vega-maza/ ). Email: d.vega-maza@abdn.ac.uk,
Tel: +441224272672

PhD Student:
Shamma Khan (s.khan2.19@abdn.ac.uk ), Tel:+441224274409

Summary:
A transition to a sustainable energy system calls for reducing waste, hazards, environmental and economic impacts. This project aims at developing new knowledge-based cleaning and waste management technologies that will contribute to that goal. It will be based on the fundamental science underpinning the stability and properties of slurries containing hydrocarbons, scales and heavy metals.

Management of hazardous substances and the long-term liability associated with the presence of unexpected pollutants pose a serious challenge during the life cycle of every offshore energy project. In the context of decommissioning, ‘Making safe’ activities, including cleaning, venting and purging, isolation, and waste management, together with topside preparation and onshore disposal, remediation and monitoring, account for circa 9% of the total cost.

Solid hydrocarbon deposits in pipelines and facilities form a matrix of waxes and asphaltenes, becoming nucleation sites for scales precipitation and trapping pollutants such as PAH and mercury. Those scales are also a source of radioactivity (NORM). The sludge at the bottom of tanks and slurries during flushing contain hazardous substances as mentioned above. Colloidal theory offers a tool to understand these processes, of paramount importance to tackle the cleaning and disposal of waste during operations and decommissioning.

Experiments (density, rheology, phase behaviour, interfacial tension, interfacial rheology and viscoelasticity, analytical chemistry, imaging techniques) and models will be investigated to optimise the cleaning method, waste treatment and disposal route of those complex mixtures.

PhD Supervisors:
Professor Stuart Piertney,
School of Biological Sciences,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/s.piertney/ ). Email: s.piertney@abdn.ac.uk,
Tel: +441224272864

Dr Alex Douglas,
School of Biological Sciences,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/a.douglas/ ). Email: a.douglas@abdn.ac.uk,
Tel: +441224272873

PhD Student:
Nathan Loustalot (n.loustalot.19@abdn.ac.uk), Tel: +441224274410

Summary:
Oil and gas infrastructure represent an important network of hard substrates that facilitates stepping stone migration for both native species and non-native marine invasive species.Decommissioning will therefore impact the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem function and services, connectivity between features such as marine protected areas (MPAs) and the emergence, spread and persistence of invasive species. However, a deep understanding of these effects is limited by a lack of empirical population genetic and phylogeographic information among offshore infrastructure and natural populations. The goal of this project is to use next generation molecular approaches such as DNA metabarcoding and environmental DNA (eDNA) to firstly characterise species assemblages on oil and gas infrastructure and secondly to characterise patterns of dispersal and geneflow in relation to oceanographic currents and features, established MPAs and existing infrastructure. The patterns of population genetic structure will be modelled under contrasting scenarios of decommissioning with the consequences for population isolation or conversely the spread of alien invasive species. The project will utilise species models that encompass a range of life histories to properly encapsulate the potential impact of altering the metapopulation network.

PhD Supervisors:
Prof Ana Ivanovic,
School of Engineering,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/a.ivanovic/). Email: a.ivanovic@abdn.ac.uk ,
Tel: +441224273265

Dr Astley Hastings,
School of Biological Sciences,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/astley.hastings/ ). Email: astley.hastings@abdn.ac.uk

PhD Student:
Ahmad Chanaa (a.chanaa.19@abdn.ac.uk), Tel:+441224274410

Summary:
A large proportion of the UKCS offshore infrastructure have reached the end of its economic lifetime. Hence, decommissioning is required when every option for extending the assets life has been exhausted.

This project examines the challenges of decommissioning marine pipelines and bundles. Subsea bundles are subsea tubular structures that can contain flow lines, process lines, chemical injection lines and umbilical cables that connect a subsea field to a host facility. Currently most bundles have been left in situ or the ends are rock dumped. This project will investigate the assessment of the current methods used for decommissioning of bundles, comparative assessment of the methods used for other structures and how methods already in place can be implemented in this project. It will include a review of current practices of removing pipelines and bundles depending on the soil type associated with those structures and examine their differences in association with legislation and environmental impact.

The project will look at the jetting process as a means of sinking the bundle into the sea bed to a depth recognised as being safe (typically 60cm in the UKCS). This will be done on scale models with different grades and densities of different seabed materials.

PhD Supervisors:
Professor Alex Kemp
Business School,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/a.g.kemp/). Email: a.g.kemp@abdn.ac.uk
Tel: +441224272168

Dr Marc Gronwald,
Business School,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/business/people/profiles/mgronwald ). Email: mgronwald@abdn.ac.uk
Tel:+441224272204

Dr Alisdair MacPherson,
Law School,
University of Aberdeen (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/people/alisdair.macpherson/).  Email: alisdair.macpherson@abdn.ac.uk
Tel: +441224272426

PhD Student:
Jesus Arturo Regalado Ruiz De Chavez (j.regaladoruizdechavez.20@abdn.ac.uk)

Summary:

This PhD project has two parts. The first will assess the economic effects of different instruments which can be used to procure financial security for decommissioning such as LOCs, Surety Bonds, Trust Funds, and Parent Company Guarantees. The economic effects would include timing of COP and thus MER, tax revenues, and risk-sharing among Government and JV partners. Professor Kemp has published several papers on these subjects including “Financial Liability for Decommissioning in the UKCS: the Comparative Effects of LOCs, Surety Bonds, and Trust Funds”, North Sea Study Occasional Paper, No.103 (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/research/acreef/working-papers/). The second part of the project will explore possible mechanisms to deal with the current problem of residual liability in perpetuity which currently rests with licensees after an agreed decommissioning plan has been executed. The thrust of the research would be to discover a mechanism which relieves the licensees of the in perpetuity liability while leaving the Government content that it is not disadvantaged.


A primary challenge associated with the assessment of risks posed by environmental contaminants is our ability to accurately predict their bioavailability. Mercury (Hg) is a well-known environmental contaminant with the ability to cycle globally. Of a particular concern is Hg presence in aquatic environment and its subsequent bioaccumulation in aquatic organisms. The bioavailability of Hg in these environments is controlled by such factors as temperature, salinity or dissolved organic carbon. As these factors vary geographically and are expected to change with the climate change there is an increasing concern about the subsequent effects on Hg behaviour in the aquatic environments and its biomagnification within food chains.

In many natural environments Hg is present in various chemical species, including solid/particulate species such as HgS. Of these, methyl mercury (MeHg) has been associated with a much higher toxicity, bioaccumulation and biomagnification potential. It is also well recognised that effects of MeHg are dictated by its availability in the environment. However, the Hg partitioning, speciation and subsequent bioavailability are often determined at standard laboratory conditions, which do not reflect the heterogeneity of the environment. The aim of this project is to investigate Hg partitioning and bioavailability (and bioaccumulation potential) under various environmental conditions (salinity, temperature and redox conditions). The experimental studies will be combined with multifactor modelling approaches to improve the accuracy of environmental risk assessment tools.

 References:

Curtis, A.N., Bourne, K., Borsuk, M.E., Buckman, K.L., Demidenko, E., Taylor, V.F., Chen, C.Y., 2019. Effects of temperature, salinity and sediment organic carbon on methylmercury bioaccumulation in an estuarine amphipod. Science of the Total Environment 687, 907-916.

Marziali, L., Rosignoli, F., Drago, A., Pascariello, S., Valsecchi, L., Rossaro, B., Guzzella, L., 2017. Toxicity risk assessment of mercury, DDT and arsenic legacy pollution in sediments: A triad approach under low concentration conditions. Science of the Total Environment 593-594, 809-821.

Wang, X., Wang, W-X., 2019. The three ‘B’ of fish mercury in China: Bioaccumulation, biodynamics and biotransformation. Environmental Pollution 250, 216-232.


An understanding of the long-term performance of offshore infrastructure is of significant importance for planning the decommissioning options. This depends on several factors such as the marine environment, materials, coatings, structure type, the chemical composition of fluids interacting with the structures, and relevant regulatory guidance. The rate of damage (general corrosion or perforation) may have consequences for whether structures are left in-situ or could effectively be removed, and underlying consequences for potential contamination.

This project aims to develop laboratory and modelling protocols for estimating the long-term performance of ageing structures, and consequences for decommissioning. The research involves mechanistic, experimental and numerical studies at multiple scales, to be linked within a probabilistic framework. The project will rationally quantify relevant uncertainties in material, geometric and loading characteristics, with a view to implement time-dependant reliability principles. Reference shall be made to industry experience and capabilities to confirm feasibility of removal, if required. The final outcomes of the project are likely to be generalised for decommissioning projects from multiple geographical locations and depths.


This project researches the advancement and deployment of acoustic methods to monitor fish at man-made marine structures (MMS). Field work will be carried out in either Angola, Thailand, Australia, or another suitable international location, using acoustic and visual survey techniques with the end result to determine the appropriateness of such methods for determining the abundance and distribution of fish at various spatial scales in relation to MMS.

Many marine species benefit from complex and permanent 3D hard substrates such as reefs which provide a wider range of available resources (secure attachment, shelter, and food) and offer more ecological niches (Loke et al., 2015). Although reefs are often exemplified by corals, they also include MMS such as oil and gas installations and pipelines.  The aggregation of fish directly at MMS is an established phenomenon (Fujii, 2015); however, our ability to monitor the spatial extent of abundance, diversity and aggregations using traditional techniques only (photography etc.) is limited.

This project aims to improve methods to study fish abundance and diversity in the vicinity of MMS, the so-called near-field area of influence (Stanley and Wilson, 1997).  Specifically, the aim is to develop better techniques and technology to monitor the area around MMS at various spatial scales.  Many studies have been based on examination of readily available ROV footage, which does not extend beyond the realm of the MMS; others have used nets, which have only extended to several hundred metres, at best, from the platform (Løkkeborg et al., 2002). Hydroacoustic techniques have been used to measure fish density at several kilometres from platform in the central North Sea (Soldal et al., 2002) but have rarely been applied in a systematic way to validate their use in and around structures. In this PhD proposal, state-of-the-art high-resolution acoustic and video surveying equipment will be used to evaluate the abundance, and potentially, species composition of fish, at various spatial scales.

References

Fujii, T., 2015. Temporal variation in environmental conditions and the structure of fish assemblages around an offshore oil platform in the North Sea. Mar. Environ. Res. 108, 69–82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marenvres.2015.03.013

Halpern, B.S., Lester, S.E., Kellner, J.B., 2009. Spillover from marine reserves and the replenishment of fished stocks. Environ. Conserv. 36, 268–276.

Loke, L.H.L., Ladle, R.J., Bouma, T.J., Todd, P.A., 2015. Creating complex habitats for restoration and reconciliation. Ecol. Eng. 77, 307–313. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoleng.2015.01.037

Løkkeborg, S., Humborstad, O.-B., Jørgensen, T., Soldal, A.V., 2002. Spatio-temporal variations in gillnet catch rates in the vicinity of North Sea oil platforms. ICES J. Mar. Sci. J. Cons. 59, S294–S299.

Soldal, A.V., Svellingen, I., Jørgensen, T., Løkkeborg, S., 2002. Rigs-to-reefs in the North Sea: hydroacoustic quantification of fish in the vicinity of a “semi-cold” platform. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 59, S281–S287. https://doi.org/10.1006/jmsc.2002.1279

Stanley, D.R., Wilson, C.A., 1997. Seasonal and spatial variation in the abundance and size distribution of fishes associated with a petroleum platform in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 54, 1166–1176. https://doi.org/10.1139/f97