Restoring oyster beds in the Gulf of Mexico

Over 350 kilometres (225 miles) from the Texas shore, a giant metal structure rises out of the water. Perdido, moored in 2,450 metres (8,000 feet) of water in the US Gulf of Mexico, is further from land – or another installation – than any other oil and gas platform. In this remote location, marine life thrives. As part of our efforts to minimise the impact of our activities, we laid the pipeline that carries oil and natural gas from Perdido along a route that avoids disturbing other deep-sea inhabitants. These included colony-pale crabs that feed on oil seeping naturally from the sea floor.

North-east of Perdido lies the Cardamom project. We helped reduce the environmental impact of this underwater development – which started production in 2014 – by retrofitting the nearby Auger platform instead of building a new platform.

We support an initiative that gives oil and gas companies the option to turn decommissioned offshore oil and gas platforms into permanent habitats for fish and other sea life. The so-called rigs-to-reefs programme is facilitated through a partnership of the US federal government and Gulf Coast states, including Louisiana and Texas. Marine organisms attach themselves to the structures, transforming them into artificial reefs that provide food and shelter for breeding sea life.

Local livelihoods

We also support initiatives to protect areas onshore. Storms and high tides are eroding the Louisiana shoreline, threatening homes and livelihoods. Our support efforts include partnering with The Nature Conservancy, a non-governmental organisation, to create artificial oyster reef beds. The beds act as a breakwater, protecting wetlands and the freshwater oysters and shrimps that provide local livelihoods.

Marine life is also a vital source of income for fishermen in Malaysia. Located off the coast of Sabah, the Gumusut-Kakap project is surrounded by yellow-fin tuna. Locals were concerned that the project would disturb the tuna they catch to eat and sell. To help address this, Shell and the Sabah Department of Fisheries are using floating devices to attract fish to alternative areas.

Humpback whale in the ocean

Understanding marine mammals and sea life

As part of our Brazilian Parque das Conchas project, we have funded research into humpback whales. We provided $2.2 million between 2002 and 2013 to the Scientific Institute Aqualie, a Brazilian non-profit organisation, for an electronic tagging programme that has revealed details about the whales’ migration routes.

“Thanks to our findings, the government can evaluate what percentage of habitat areas are protected,” said Alexandre Zerbini from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who is leading the programme. “This allows them to take action to protect the whales.”

Off the Texas and Louisiana coasts, ocean scientists are borrowing underwater robots and expertise from the energy industry to investigate marine life in the deep Gulf of Mexico.

Research institutes train operators of remotely-operated vehicles working at offshore production sites to help them observe and monitor creatures that live up to 2,500 metres below the sea surface over long periods. In return, companies like Shell gain a better understanding of how their operations and sea life co-exist.

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