Oil & Gas

HOV Alvin and drilling ship – Gulf of Mexico. Image courtesy of Erik Cordes, Temple University, USA

The Issue: The oil and gas industry is one of the most active industries on the continental margins. This is predominantly within national exclusive economic zones (EEZs), but continues to expand into deeper waters further offshore. The potential impacts of this development were profoundly illustrated by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout event. The risks of additional incidents increase as activity moves deeper and deeper. Within different EEZs, there are a wide variety of regulations regarding the survey of deep-water areas prior to oil and gas leasing and the acceptable set-back distances from vulnerable marine ecosystems once they are discovered.  Scientific input is critically important for policy and regulatory developments.

The Working Group: The Oil & Gas working group aims to facilitate science-policy engagement on issues relevant to oil and gas.  One of the primary goal for this group is to provide a set of “best practice” recommendations for resource managers to apply within and beyond national jurisdiction.   The group currently has 74 members.

Current Activities:

  • Active community discussion of emerging offshore regulatory issues
  • Planning for broad stakeholder workshop to look at science required and recommendations from the working group review article (see below) – to identify science-based knowledge needed for developing or modifying regulations as well as guidelines for and evaluation of EIAs
  • Consideration of a further workshop to develop capacity to design and implement EIAs for offshore oil and gas industrial activities in developing nations
  • Appraisal of the applicability of existing oil and gas assessments and regulations for offshore gas hydrate resources
  • Establishment of collaborative relationship with International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA)
  • Promotion of collaborative efforts to increase research in the following areas:
    1. Effects of sound on fish and invertebrates
    2. Effects of impacts on processes at microbial level
    3. Interactions between climatic variable sand drilling impacts
    4. In situ and ex situ studies of effects of dispersants on deep-sea organisms
    5. Recovery studies
    6. Cumulative effect studies
    7. More studies to determine distance of set-back and buffer zones
    8. Robust approaches for biodiversity assessment using meta-barcoding/eDNA
  • Encouragement of responsible development by promoting cost-effective MPA design, encouraging the use of VME and EBSA concepts, providing examples of good adaptive management and examples of levels of acceptable change

Past Activities:

  • Review article published September 2016: Cordes EE, Jones DOB, Schlacher TA, Amon DJ, Bernardino AF, Bett BJ, Brooke S, Carney R, DeLeo DM, Dunlop KM, Escobar E, Gates AR, Génio L, Gobin J, Henry L-A, Herrera S, Hoyt S, Joye S, Kark S, Mestre NC, Metaxas A, Pfeifer S, Sink K, Sweetman AK, Witte U. (2016) Environmental impacts of the deep-water oil and gas industry: a review to guide management strategies. Front. Environ. Sci. 4: 58. doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2016.00058