More than 3,000 petroleum platforms stand in the Gulf and about 100 are decommissioned each year. They are usually towed ashore and salvaged, displacing the marine life established during its active use.
Since the Artificial Reef Program began in 1990, more than 140 offshore drilling rigs have been donated by cooperating oil and gas companies. Currently, the program receives 50 percent of an oil company's savings from converting the rig to a permanent reef rather than taking the structure to shore for salvaging. (Federal law requires decommissioned structures to be removed if they do not participate in this program.) The funds earned by accepting the rig into the program help finance research, administration, maintenance, liability and construction of new artificial reefs. They also make the Texas Artificial Reef Program self-sufficient, with little need for taxpayer dollars.
Where are the Reefed Rigs?
Reefed rig structures may be a few miles from shore or almost 100 miles from shore, in waters ranging from 50 to over 300 feet deep. The most accessible artificial reef sites for divers and fishermen are located 6 to 30 miles from major Gulf ports. The majority of them remain far offshore in an Outer Continental Block area called High Island General Permit Area, an area in federal waters with established reefing guidelines developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and TPWD.