The $100,000 grant from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will help GORI finance the next phase of its proposal to transform Station Padre, a former oil platform 25 miles east of Padre Island, Texas, into a working fish farm.
“We’re grateful for this grant and are excited to put the funds to use proving the viability of platform-based aquaculture in the United States and elsewhere,” said Kent Satterlee, executive director of GORI. “With the renewed push toward a low-carbon future, we believe offshore fish farming is the best way for the country to provide a sustainable, domestically-produced source of protein.”
The grant money will go toward preliminary design of the net pen system and a more in-depth financial analysis of the overall project, both of which will be performed by Innovasea – which produces technologically advanced aquatic solutions for aquaculture and fish tracking. It will also fund a species study by the Rosenstiel School of Marina and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami and research into the various permits that will be required to proceed with the project.
“This is a creative project that could potentially pave the way for the reuse of abandoned oil platforms and help spur offshore aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico,” said David Kelly, CEO of Innovasea. “Rather than spending millions of dollars to dismantle these pieces of ocean infrastructure – and disturb the ecosystems that have sprung up around them naturally in the process – it makes sense to explore productive new uses for them like offshore aquaculture.”
Last year Innovasea assisted GORI in examining whether Station Padre was suitable for re-use as a commercial fish farm and discovered favorable conditions. The rig sits in about 150 feet of water that offers excellent visibility and is conducive to aquaculture.
There are hundreds of abandoned oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico waiting to be dismantled. Dismantling a platform can cost up to $10 million, and in 2015 the Government Accountability Office estimated it will eventually cost $38 billion to remove the 1,800 or so platforms from the Gulf of Mexico.
Built by Shell in the 1980s, Station Padre is now owned by Peregrine Oil and Gas. Natural gas production there ended in 2015.
GORI is currently seeking re-use permits for the platform with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.