Exmouth Integrated Artificial Reef

Enhancing marine ecosystems through offshore decommissioning

About the project

Through NERA’s funding, industry support and driven by Subcon’s innovative technology and experience in subsea hydrodynamics and marine asset stabilisation, this ‘rigs to reef’ project is unlike any other. The Exmouth Integrated Artificial Reef, named ' The King Reef' by the Exmouth community, was installed in the waters of the Exmouth Gulf in July 2018 and is the largest purpose-built reef in the Southern Hemisphere and the first of its kind in Australia.

What makes this project so unique is the reef is partially made up of repurposed offshore structures from the oil and gas industry. NERA has worked with our project partners including Subcon, Curtin University, BHP and RecFishwest to develop the special combination of materials that make up the reef design.

The reef's construction combined 49 purpose-built concrete modules with six steel structures from a BHP operated field that has ceased production, forming the foundation of 27,000 cubic metres of new marine habitat.

Through the ‘ReefVision’ Citizen Science Initiative and independent research conducted by Curtin University around the King Reef, NERA envisions this project will inform a safer, more productive and sustainable option for decommissioning offshore oil and gas assets in the future.

Engineered reef ecosystems have been shown to support six times more marine life than surrounding reef ecosystems. King Reef, positioned on a previously sandy barren seafloor, has already seen 100 different species of fish and coral call it home, with underwater footage showing a thriving and growing reef.

Improved fishing opportunities in the Exmouth Gulf have been a long-held priority for local Exmouth fishers and was something the local community pushed for, for many years. The Gulf offers protection from adverse and extreme weather conditions, otherwise experienced on the western side of the cape.

For the Exmouth community, the new reef creates an abundance of recreational fishing, tourism and employment opportunities.

"Instead of removing retired infrastructure from the ocean, let's change the conversation. Let's transform them into thriving marine habitats."

Matt Allen, CEO of Subcon

Deeper impacts coming to the surface


purpose-built concrete modules


steel structures


cubic metres of new marine habitat


different species of fish calling King Reef home


Increasing collaboration

The project has been a collaboration between small and big business, community, state government, research and a peak body.

Improving international opportunities and market access

Our Exmouth Integrated Artificial Reef project has been a major enabler in unlocking opportunities for project partner Subcon who, since installing the King Reef, has been awarded a contract to deliver four artificial reefs in the Northern Territory. The success of the King Reef project has raised Subcon's profile as a world leader not just in reef construction, but in building up Australia's decommissioning capabilities and further integrating them into domestic and global supply chains.

Since the project, Subcon have installed additional reefs off the Gold Coast, Western Australia, Northern Territory and even in the Mauritius. These reefs serve multiple purposes from dive attractions (Gold Coast) through to habitat enhancement and reducing the impacts of coastal erosion through wave attenuation (Mauritius). Subcon are using similar principals to assist in the design and development of offshore infrastructure foundations including for the expanding offshore wind industry.

identifying opportunities for regulatory reform

The Exmouth reef project has been a key enabler in opening the door for alternative decommissioning options. NERA envisions this project will inform a safer, more productive and sustainable option for decommissioning offshore oil and gas assets in the future. If proven as one potentially viable decommissioning strategy to industry and government, the King Reef could positively influence environmental legislation and open up new possibilities to add to existing decommissioning avenues, creating a new market and business model for companies like Subcon to flourish from these innovative solutions.

“Innovate Freely, Deliver Rigorously”

— Matt Allen

Project Timeframe

This project is now complete.

The reef was installed in 2018.

Monitoring and research of the reef is ongoing.

Project Funding

Total Project Cost: $1,000,000

  • NERA: $500,000
  • Industry: $500,000