Oil-Spill Research Efforts

Objective: To conduct research that will improve BOEM’s estimates of oil-spill transport, fate, and impacts to the environment.  

Enactment of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 has led to an increased emphasis on oil-spill research. Oil spills are one of the major areas of public concern with regard to offshore oil and natural gas development.  

Meeting the Need: The studies to be funded under the Environmental Studies Program (ESP) will improve the understanding of physical oceanography, oil-spill fates, and ecological impact processes.  

New studies of currents on the Gulf of Mexico continental slope in deep water will be undertaken to provide information for oil-spill risk analysis and model validation.  Studies of the fate, behavior, and cleanup of oil spills in the presence of sea ice in Alaskan waters will be needed.   

Additional modeling and field studies will be conducted to properly describe the fates and effects of well-stream materials discharged near the seafloor.  

Future oil-spill research conducted under the ESP will include the following categories:  

  • Ocean Transport (physical oceanography) — observations of coastal and continental shelf currents acquired as part of field programs using current meters, drifting buoys, satellite images, and shipboard surveys. Data from these field programs will be used to validate computer models of ocean circulation.
  • Oil-Spill Fates — laboratory analyses of various types of oil and computer modeling of the oil-spill behavior in the environment. Results of these analyses will be incorporated into oil weathering models.
  • Oil-Spill Impacts on Environmental Resources — studies of the effects of oil on animal and plant resources. The ESP will conduct ecological monitoring to determine the effects of oil spills on marine communities. 

Oil Spill Research Reports 

Review of the State of the Art on Modeling Interactions Between Spilled Oil and Shorelines for the Development of Algorithms for Oil Spill Risk Analysis Modeling. Prepared by Environmental Research Consulting. Available from BOEM Environmental Division, Branch of Environmental Sciences. OCS Study MMS 2007-063. 161 p.

BOEM oil spill reports are available at OSRA