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The Oil Rig Graveyard of Cromarty Firth

In a remote sheltered harbor guarded by two precipitous headlands, in the North of Scotland, dozens of oil rigs are sitting idle, some for more than a decade, quietly waiting for offshore oil drilling to become profitable again.

The Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) was established in 1972 as a dry dock for repair and fabrication of oil platforms operating in the North Sea. This region, which includes the shallow waters of the U.K., Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, is one of the world’s most active offshore drilling region with hundreds of actively drilling rigs, but its days of prime are long past. With oil prices steadily declining for the last couple of years, many oil companies have decided to suspend operation, but they are still hopeful that prices will bounce back again.

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Photo credit: Michael Elleray/Flickr

Instead of disassembling their oil rigs, these companies have towed them away from the deep sea and into the safe harbor of Cromarty Firth, where they could remain on stand-by and ready to go out to sea again as soon as the economy turns in their favor. Some of these rigs are “hot-stacked”, meaning they still have a skeleton crew on board, looking after the expensive machines and power is still on. Others are shutdown completely. A couple of them were already towed away to be scrapped.

According to Bloomberg, only 63 percent of oil and gas rigs in the U.K. North Sea were being used as of January 2016, with the crash in energy prices forcing drillers to abandon more costly projects. One industry analyst predicts that almost 150 more oil platforms could be taken out of UK waters within the next 10 years.

While thousands of people in the oil industry have lost their jobs, the scrapping of more oil rigs could eventually benefit Cromarty Firth. The port has recently spent £25 million on a new quay, where ageing North Sea platforms, as well as rigs, could be dismantled generating attractive employment opportunities for locals.

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Photo credit: Dailymail

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Photo credit: Dailymail

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Photo credit: Dailymail

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Photo credit: Dailymail

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Photo credit: Nick Rowland/Flickr

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Photo credit: Steven Straiton/Flickr

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Photo credit: Steven Straiton/Flickr

Sources: Wikipedia / Financial Times / Bloomberg / The Guardian

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