If oil and gas exploration rigs and production installations are allowed to dump drilling wastes unchecked, the effects on marine life can be extensive and biologically significant. Over the past 40 years in the UK and Norwegian sectors of the North Sea, for example, about 1.3 million cubic metres of drill cuttings and associated wastes have built up on the seabed in 102 individual "cuttings piles" with an estimated mass of from 2 to 2.5 million tonnes. The largest pile contains over 66,000m3 of material and weighs about 100,000 tonnes (). The ecological effects extend for several kilometres from some platforms and can be detected up to 10km from discharge points. These cuttings piles smother seabed life and remain toxic for many years, mainly because of the hydrocarbons they contain.


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