Jordan Blum, editorial director, Hart Energy: We are here at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. I'm joined by Amber Sparks, the co-founder of Blue Latitudes. Thank you so much for joining us. Really just wanted to get your take on just kind of how much of a growing business is oil and gas decommissioning offshore with so many platforms and rigs and whatnot.

Amber Sparks, co-founder, Blue Latitudes: Absolutely. Well, thank you for having me. Being here at this conference is just a great example of how much this industry has to offer and all the opportunities here. I will say in the decommissioning world, the topic is hotter now than it's ever been. I spoke on a panel that was kicking off this week. Decommissioning is no longer at the end of the conversation, at the end of the conference. They put it right at the beginning because that's how important it is and it's on everybody's mind. So, excited to be a part of the conversation here this week.

JB: Can you elaborate just a bit on everything that goes into this? I mean, there's deepwater ROV surveys, there's hydroacoustic fish surveys. I mean, can you just give me the elevator pitch, so to speak?

AS: Sure, of course. Blue Latitudes is an environmental consulting firm, and we work with the offshore industry to help them look at their platform structures on a case-by-case basis, to look at them as potential fisheries habitat. We do that using ROV-based studies. We can use sound or do acoustic surveys to understand how much life is on those structures. And we're even developing a software called FishLAT that predicts the impacts of reefing, reusing, installing or completely removing a structure from the sea floor, understanding how that's going to impact the marine life and the fishermen and fisheries that depend on them.

JB: Very good. And obviously y'all are doing projects all over the world, but can I get you to just touch on how important this is, applicable in the Gulf of Mexico?

AS: Absolutely. The Gulf of Mexico is the birthplace of the Rigs-to-Reefs Program. We've been reefing platforms here for over 30 years. In the Gulf, they have over 600 reefed platforms—structures that were once just producing oil and now they're hotspots for marine life. But today the conversation is changing and going beyond just fixed structures. We're introducing other infrastructure like spars or deepwater facilities as potential reefing candidates here in the Gulf.

JB: Great. So can you give me some examples? I know y'all are working with OXY, Anadarko on spar decommissioning projects. Anything else you want to highlight?

AS: Yeah, so we've been working specifically on the pre-planning for some of these larger new reef opportunities like with the Anadarko spar, and looking at different opportunities for decommissioning it, and reefing potentially being one of those options. Like I said, looking beyond just a fixed structure, but understanding how a floating facility or spar might make for a good candidate to be reefed. We're also looking and working in Louisiana with the Department of Fish and Wildlife there to understand how reefing structures in place outside of reefing zones could potentially add benefit to the local ecosystems without interrupting or conflicting with trawl fishermen and other ocean users that are out there. So that's another big project we've been working on.

JB: Very good. Yeah. You touched on that—there’s the special artificial reef side program in Louisiana. How is this new and different from previous kind of rigs-to-reef programs?

AS: So typically in Louisiana, most structures were reefed inside of designated reef planning areas, and these areas were specially designed to make sure that they mitigated any conflict with other ocean users. So an operator would have to tow its platform to these designated areas to reef it. But now we've opened up the opportunity to reef in place. These are specifically for structures in shallower than 400 feet of water. So some of the structures that would typically be required to be towed are now, there is the opportunity to reap them in place. So this is a more cost-effective option for operators and potentially could add additional value by creating hotspots for marine life off the coast of Louisiana. But each structure needs to be assessed. They need to look at the environment, they need to understand how it's going to impact other fishery stakeholders and make sure there won't be any conflicts. But once you go through those evaluations, you can work with Department of Fish and Wildlife in Louisiana and pursue a special artificial reef site permit.

JB: Great. So there's obviously an awful lot of old oil and gas infrastructure in the Gulf. I mean, what does the future hold in general for this industry?

AS: Well, we're definitely seeing a transition away from offshore oil and gas to more renewable energy sources like wind. They've opened up the Gulf to potentially new wind leases and they're doing it off the East and West coast of the United States. So that is definitely on the forefront of everybody's mind. But oil and gas is still very present and active, both in drilling capacity and in decommissioning. So for us, we see a lot of opportunities here, especially on the decommissioning side of things for looking at new structures and finding new reefing candidates.

JB: Great. Well, thank you so much for joining us again at the Offshore Technology Conference. Really appreciate it. To read and watch more, please visit online at