Table of contents

3.4.1. Maritime hazards

Maritime storms are a major hazard for offshore energy infrastructure. The increase in wind speeds and wave heights during storm events, which may be exacerbated by sea level rise, makes operation and maintenance oil and gas platforms and of wind farms more dangerous and may require temporary shut downs (Bell et al., 2017).

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Responding to the increasing importance of offshore renewable energy production, the EU has funded several research projects with regard to multi-use offshore platforms (Quevedo et al., 2013; Zanuttigh et al., 2016). There are also innovative efforts underway for offshore system integration that reuses existing sea-based infrastructure (North Sea Energy, forthcoming).

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Coastal hazards

Many types of energy infrastructure, such as oil/gas/tanker terminals, refineries, but also nuclear and fossil power plants are often placed in close proximity to coastlines or estuaries where they are exposed to various coastal hazards (Cruz and Krausmann, 2013). A comprehensive assessment of climate change risks to key coastal energy infrastructure has been conducted in the ClimateCost project (Brown et al., 2014).

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Coastal flooding occurs during storm events, and it is exacerbated by sea level rise. It can inundate coastal infrastructure, causing power blackouts and disruptions (Azevedo de Almeida and Mostafavi, 2016). Due to changing water levels and sediment supply, coastal flooding can also temporarily disrupt the flow of cooling water, particularly affecting operations at coastal nuclear plants. This is an issue as a large share of all nuclear reactors in Europe are on coastlines (Brown et al., 2014).

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Coastal erosion, which is also facilitated by sea level rise, results in the loss of natural barriers to rising waters. Subsequent damage to coastal infrastructure may be via direct wave impact, loss of infrastructure stability through land loss, or subsequent flooding events (Azevedo de Almeida and Mostafavi, 2016). Adaptation measures to coastal flooding and erosion are closely connected, often involving physical protection measures. As an example, beach profiling, beach feeding and shingle recycling were used to reduce coastal erosion and associated flooding at the Dungeness nuclear power station in the UK (DECC, 2010).

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Storm surges refer to abnormal rises in water levels generated by a storm. They can combine with high tide events and mean sea level rise to create extreme sea levels. Coastal energy infrastructure, including ports and refineries related to offshore oil, gas and wind energy production activities, are particularly vulnerable to storm surge impacts. Storm surge impacts cause flooding and physical damage due to wave strength, ultimately resulting in disrupted energy supply. Tidal dynamics may also be affected as a consequence of sea level rise and storm surges, impacting specific renewable energy sources such as tidal and wave power (Lewis et al., 2017; Pickering et al., 2017).

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Adaptation measures against storm surges depend on the specific type of infrastructure. Forecasting and planning around such events is essential to protect vital infrastructure. Physical and management measures can also increase resilience (see the case study in Section 4.6.3).

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