Biofouling: Not a Load of Barnacles

Biofouling or ‘biological fouling’ is the accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae, or animals on wetted surfaces.

The offshore oil and gas industry provides a multitude of different assets underwater for these organisms to grow on, but why do they become an issue?

  1. Additional weight load and drag. FPSO’s boat hulls can become covered in biofouling making them heavier to power, and consequently this uses more fuel which has an environmental impact.
  2. Safety of personnel: biofouling makes it difficult to identify specific equipment. If equipment has been subsea for some time marine growth will have settled here. Divers need to work in safety critical environments and need to be able to identify which asset to inspect easily and, for example, if a valve is the critical ‘open’ or closed’ position. If a structure is covered in marine life this impacts their time, performance and safety.
  3. Corrosion: as seen in the image above, barnacles and other organisms may be small but they can erode the surfaces of offshore equipment. Barnacles have their own ‘glue’ they can stick to almost any surface, while other marine life can rust or chip away at surfaces after attaching.
  4. Hard to identify any active corrosion areasg. external cracks and damaged constructive elements. When conducting scheduled operations or condition monitoring, any maintenance issues may not be reported as they could be hidden under a thick fouling layer.

The above reasons are largely related to the safety of workers in the industry and the environment at large: while a few organisms here and there might not sound like a lot of disruption, biofouling is a huge issue that can fluctuate between countries, water depths and water temperatures.

 What can stop biofouling?

While the easiest remedy might be to kill of marine growth, is that a process operators are willing to pay for and schedule time, staff and resources for periodically? Biofouling never goes away permanently, it will simply build up again once removed.

Traditional ways to remove fouling also bear no sustainable or eco-friendly attributes, watch this video on how tough it can be to remove fouling with a description of the chemicals used.


Our research into our flagship product Aquasign® meant that we could test what technology and materials would combat biofouling. With Aquasign® Subsea Markers, we managed to mimic fish skin and create an oil-exuding silicone which can prevent any marine growth. Ever seen a fish covered in coral, seaweed or mussles?!

What’s more, Aquasign® markers are 100% environmentally friendly. Our smart silicone releases no harmful chemicals into the water and contains no copper which was traditionally used to kill marine life.

See our photo of offshore equipment being extracted from the sea – while the structure has biolouing already present, the Aquasign® marker remains clear of growth.

Underwater is a whole new world compared to topside, and while we are pro sustainability and eco focussed, we understand that companies in the industry need a long lasting, safety conscious signage solution.

Find out more about the benefits of Aquasign® markers here.







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