Exploring Understandings of Different Decommissioning Options for Offshore Oil and Gas Structures in the South Taranaki Bight of New Zealand
The majority of the world’s offshore oil and gas structures will need to be decommissioned in upcoming decades as they near the end of their production phase. Once decommissioned, there are three main options available for the now-obsolete structures: complete removal, partial removal, and re-use. Since New Zealand has yet to decommission any offshore structures, there are no past examples or legislative precedent to guide the process. International case studies indicate that social acceptance is crucial to the successful implementation of these projects, so the aim of this thesis was to examine perceptions of different decommissioning options for offshore oil and gas structures in the South Taranaki Bight of New Zealand. Grounded in agenda-setting theory, Study 1 examined the prominence and portrayal of offshore decommissioning in the media. We found an exceedingly low coverage (N = 13) which indicates that the public are likely unaware of the issue. Within the limited sample, the themes 'disregarding decommissioning' and 'addressing decommissioning' were identified which, when combined, suggest that New Zealand is in the pre-planning stage of decommissioning and has yet to explore the options available. Using a postal survey (N = 154), Study 2 measured how the Taranaki community currently understood different decommissioning options, and explored whether and which familiarity variables, psychological constructs, and demographic variables could predict support for different options. The results confirmed a lack of knowledge and awareness (but high levels of interest) among the sample and revealed heterogeneity in which option was supported. Moreover, path analyses showed that awareness, knowledge, age, individualist worldviews, and egalitarian worldviews were significantly associated with support for different options. As will be discussed, these findings have significant implications for communication, engagement, and policy-making in both New Zealand and the international context.