Oil Spill Modeling Program

The Bureau assesses oil-spill risks associated with offshore energy activities off the U.S. continental coast and Alaska by calculating spill trajectories and contact probabilities. These analyses address the likelihood of spill occurrences, the transport and fate of any spilled oil, and the environmental impacts that might occur as a result of the spill. The bureau's Oil-Spill Risk Analysis (OSRA) model combines the probability of spill occurrence with a statistical description of hypothetical oil-spill movement on the ocean surface.

Modeling results are used by staff for preparation of environmental documents in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act; other Federal and State agencies for review of environmental impact statements (EISs), environmental assessments, and endangered species consultations; and oil industry specialists preparing the oil spill response plans (OSRP).

Paths of hypothetical oil spills are based on hindcasts (history) of winds, ocean currents, and ice in arctic waters, using the best available input of environmental information. Outputs of the model include tables of probable contact and GIS (Geographic Information System) representations of these probabilities, with and without the probability of the occurrence of one or more spills.

BOEM is committed to the continuous improvement of OSRA estimations and EIS analysis, and use the results of new field and modeling studies to fulfill that commitment. As offshore activity expands into deeper waters and new geographic areas, BOEM oil-spill modeling will be applied to pertinent risk assessments and validated with environmental observations.

For information pertaining to operational safety, pollution prevention, oil spill response, and cleanup capabilities, visit the BSEE Technological Assessment Program (TAP), formerly Technical Assessment & Research (TAR), Program and the BSEE Oil Spill Response Research (OSRR) sites.