Abandoned pipelines set to create ecological disaster in North Sea ​

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The North Sea is a ticking time bomb. While in some countries, such as Australia, companies are required to remove oil and gas pipelines once oil wells stop working, in the North Sea this constraint does not exist. Companies are allowed to let them rot.

As a result, many of them, in ruins and abandoned, are releasing all kinds of toxic products into the water, such as mercury, radioactive lead and polonium, reports The Guardian. A major danger for fauna and flora.

Dramatic consequences
What particularly worries scientists, notably Lhiam Paton, researcher at the Institute of Analytical Chemistry at the University of Graz, is pollution from mercury, a metal naturally present in oil and gas, and which accumulates in over time inside the pipelines. An accumulation that ends up being released into the sea when they corrode.

In total, the approximately 27,000 km of gas pipelines in the North Sea could lead to an increase in this metal in the sea of 3 to… 160%, scientists estimate. Even counting on a slight increase, the consequences could be dramatic.

Mercury is a particularly pernicious toxin. It can accumulate in the brains of animals – including dolphins, whales and seals – leading to reproductive failures, behavioral changes and death. Another substance of particular concern: natural radioactive materials, present in certain oil and gas reservoirs under the seabed.

Today, it remains difficult to predict the exact impact of these abandoned pipelines, as very little research has been done on the long term. Meanwhile, in January 2024, the North Sea Transition Authority announced that 24 new oil and gas licenses had been offered to companies.
​This article is originally published on .slate.fr

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