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Could retired oil platforms become waste-to-energy power plants?



What if you could clean the world’s oceans of plastic waste, generate energy and make use of retired oil platforms all at the same time? That’s the challenge that architectural designer Honglin Li has set out to solve with his Filtration Skyscrapers concept.
Could retired oil platforms become waste-to-energy power plants?
(Image via Honglin Li).

Honglin’s proposal envisions placing unmanned towers on retired oil platforms in parts of the ocean where plastic waste accumulates. Advanced machinery on the platforms would collect the plastic waste and other pollutants and then use it to generate electricity and biofuels.

The Filtration Skyscrapers as Honglin has called the concept, would differ from conventional material recovery facilities which mainly use gravity and conveyors to sort and distribute garbage. Instead the Filtration Skyscrapers would use seawater to pump garbage, plastic and polluted water to the apex of the building, then filter the water and recyclable materials as they descend back down to the base of the facility. The result would be clean water and sorted materials which can be put to use for energy or re-used. In other words, the Filtration Skyscrapers would be a combination of a material recovery facility (MRF), a water treatment plant (WTP) and waste-to-energy (WTE) plant.
Under Honglin Li's proposal retired oil platforms could help to ameliorate the world's ocean plastics problem
(Image via Honglin Li).

Honglin says he was inspired to tackle plastic waste in the world’s oceans by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic which are dispersed over an area the size of Texas. The size of the patch is estimated to be 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean with rubbish the patch sometimes reaching 100 feet in thickness.
Plastic waste collected by the Filtration Skyscrapers could be converted into electricity and biofuels
(Image via Honglin Li).

Speaking to architectural magazine Dezeen, Honglin explained this thinking behind the concept, saying that “It involves converting an abandoned oil platform into a vertical recycling skyscraper (which could) filter the floating garbage and clean the seawater while taking on the world’s energy crisis.”

With regards to the energy generation potential of the concept he said, “The electric power can be either used in the facility to support all the mechanical movement including pumping the contamination and polluted seawater or can be outputted in the form of electric energy or combustible biofuel.”
Honglin Li's Filtration Skyscraper concept was developed for the eVolo skyscraper competition
(Image via Honglin Li).

Honglin’s Filtration Skyscraper concept was developed for the eVolo skyscraper competition, an annual competition that recognises projects that challenge concepts around vertical architecture and its relationship with the natural and built environment. Honglin’s design earned him an honourable mention.
The Filtration Skyscraper concept points to a future in which retired oil platforms are put to myriad new uses
(Image via Honglin Li).

Could retired oil platforms be put to other uses?

Honglin Li’s Filtration Skyscrapers may be a fanciful and ambitious idea, but with as many as 600 offshore assets set to be decommissioned globally between 2016 and 2021 perhaps it’s time for the Oil & Gas industry to think differently about what happens to oil platforms once they’re retired.

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Could retired oil platforms become waste-to-energy power plants? - Time to read 3 min
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