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Pilot projects in the field of marine pollution

The Directorate-General for the Environment, Nuclear Safety and Civil Protection of the European Commission, following the Council resolution on environment and sustainable development (OJ No C 138 of 17.5.1993) and in accordance with the views of the advisory committee on the control and reduction of pollution caused by oil and other harmful substances discharged at sea (ACPH), plans to grant financial support for pilot projects to be carried out in the field of accidental pollution at sea.

Pilot projects in the field of marine pollution are intended to improve technical tools and assistance techniques with a view to extending the capacity for action of those involved in the Member States in dealing with accidental marine pollution caused by oil and other harmful substances discharged at sea.

Proposals to carry out the pilot projects may be submitted by companies, institutions and bodies in the private or state sector, individually or in groupings. In order to optimize the work programme, the Commission also wishes to foster collaboration with potential partners outside the EC.

Pilot projects that the Commission intends to finance fall into two work areas:

- Mathematical models and decision-support system;
- Bioremediation techniques (oil-spill bioremediation).

Owing to the limited budget available, only a few actions will be financed. They can be summarized in order of priority as follows:

(A) Mathematical models and decision-support system:

Bearing in mind the experience of some recent major accidents in European waters (Haven, Aegean Sea), where large quantities of loaded oil caught fire, the aim of this project is to develop a model for the estimation of burnt, evaporated, dispersed and sunk oil (mass balances) in order to obtain data on the unburnt residual oil in an accident (model for the fate of oil), and to have a reliable tool suitable for the decision-making process.

Indeed, in the abovementioned cases, many questions were raised on the role and the influence that the fire played towards the pollution process and its effects on the environment and population in the affected area.
The system and model to be developed should take into consideration:

- The direct influence of oceanographic conditions (waves, water temperature, etc.) and meteorological conditions (wind, cloud cover, precipitations, temperature, etc.) on fire intensity and smoke behaviour;
- The fate of the smoke cloud in terms of trajectory, dispersion and, if possible, deposition of partially burnt residues, both at sea and on land;
- The spatial and temporal safety limits for potential human impacts, taking into consideration temperature, chemical concentrations in the air, and deposition;
- The oil composition and oil properties, taking advantage of existing sources of information (EUROCRUDE project, etc.);
- The classical behaviour of the oil spill (spreading, drift, dispersion, etc.) with the addition of changes in density as light fractions burn out, sinking and the fate of ashes and residues;
- The mass balance as percentages of the total amount of oil spilled, taking into account all the above processes.

Furthermore, on account of the fact that several worldwide institutions are carrying out experiments on "in situ burning of oil", priority will be given to project proposals which present a broad spectrum of international collaboration aimed at gathering information and data suitable to clarify some of the processes to be modelled.

(B) Bioremediation techniques:

The overall aim of the activities described below is to establish a solid operational basis to oil-spill bioremediation so that the technique may be used with confidence during spill incidents. Project proposals should cover some or all of the activities listed below,
in order of priority:

- Laboratory work: to establish the relative biodegradability of oil types under standard conditions.

The aim is to establish what proportion of a wide range of oils are biodegradable. This information will be used to help to determine whether bioremediation should be used in response to a spill incident of a particular oil type. Preference will be given to projects which assess biodegradability under conditions pertinent to oil-spill bioremediation, particularly on shorelines.

Furthermore, on account of the fact that several worldwide institutions are working on the establishment of tests to show the relative biodegradability of different oil types, priority will be given to project proposals which present a broad spectrum of international collaboration for the purpose of establishing reproducible test conditions, which would lead to international comparability of test results.

- Field investigation: to establish whether bioremediation can be used to treat oil spills on shorelines of importance to the tourist industry in Europe (fine sand, sand, gravel).

Moreover, it is of particular importance to ascertain the relationship between grain size and the most effective fertilizer type (oleophilic fertilizer, inorganic aqueous fertilizer, etc.) to obtain the optimal oil biodegradation.

- Field investigation: to determine the environmental implications of adding fertilizer to estuarine and coastal ecosystems, particularly with regard to toxicity and the potential for eutrophication.

As field trials are complex and difficult operations, every effort must be made to ensure they are carried out to a high standard. Details of quality assurance procedures to be employed in the lab, particularly in the field, must be supplied with proposals. Furthermore, the trials should be conducted so that the results are comparable with research conducted by other groups worldwide, and all tender responses on field trials should provide clear evidence of the relevant permission by competent authorities to conduct such trials.
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