Exmouth artificial reef a marine showcase for BHP: EHS Awards

As part of our run-up to the 2021 APPEA Environment and Safety Excellence Awards this June, we look at some of the previous winners and nominees who have helped shape the event into what it is today

As oil and gas assets mature and reach commercial retirement, it is important to ensure facilities and infrastructure are decommissioned in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

BHP Petroleum Australia engineered an innovative solution to decommissioning through its involvement in the Exmouth King Reef project.

King Reef, located approximately six nautical miles off the coast of Exmouth, Western Australia, is the largest and fastest–developing, purpose-built artificial reef in the Southern Hemisphere.

BHP’s Griffin offshore facility was coming to the end of its life and required decommissioning. It was decided that BHP would develop the artificial reef using six giant steel structures repurposed from the facility.

These structures were returned to the ocean along with 49 concrete modules to a two-acre segment of seabed around 10 minutes from Exmouth Marina, forming an artificial reef boasting more than 27,000 cubic metres of underwater habitat.

Reusing the structures from the Griffin facility in this manner has given birth to a diverse, carefully monitored marine system within the Exmouth community, encouraging a diverse array of undersea life to flourish among the reef. This is not only beneficial to the marine ecosystem, but also to local fisheries, marine scientists, and recreational divers, transforming a once-barren patch of seafloor into a bustling aquatic community.

BHP even partnered with Recfishwest to implement a citizen science program, Reef Vision, providing a way to catalogue the ongoing development of the reef’s fish productivity for local fishers.

BHP submitted the project as an entry in the 2018 APPEA Environment and Safety Excellence Awards, and while the company didn’t win that year, it certainly impressed the judges with its novel solution to an issue that is becoming increasingly important for the oil and gas industry.

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