Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


TRENDS Report Summary

Project ID: 11745
Funded under: FP5-EESD
Country: United Kingdom

Environmental impact (WP1)

Main Findings:
The work package on environmental impact has achieved two major goals.
- First, it has characterised the current state of the art in environmental risk management activities within the offshore energy industries, and in the research and standardisation groups that support these activities.
- Second, it has identified the critical topics where more advanced capability is required, and the type of actions which could achieve these advances.

This work has been performed in a context which is continuously evolving, in particular due to:
- Changes to the type of activities and projects undertaken by companies, in response to changing markets (e.g. demand for renewable and low carbon energy) and changing locations of accessible resources;
- Continuing advances in scientific understanding of environmental impacts, and in the techniques able to minimise the risk of causing these impacts. The work package has therefore created an important analysis of investment priorities to underpin environmental performance within the offshore energy industry of the future.

The following areas for advancement were highlighted:
- Risk Assessment - knowing which impacts on the environment are likely to be important now and in the future, how these can be measured, and what determines the risk they pose. Specific advances are needed in risk assessment for mixtures of contaminants within complex eco-systems (including 'new' areas of arctic and deep waters), and including chronic risks. Improved monitoring techniques in air and water (e.g. using autonomous vehicles) will also be important.
- Risk Management - possessing the tools and information resources which can assist planning and operations management to minimise the risk of causing environmental damage and resulting impacts. Integrated risk models incorporating all combined risks will allow overall minimisation of risk to be achieved, often within a context of validated decision support systems that permit risk forecasting. These systems will depend on access to supporting physical, chemical and biological knowledge and data resources, available through standardised portals or web services.
- Risk Reduction - developing the technologies which can minimise exposure to risk 'at source' and minimise the liability created by damage when it has occurred. Major concerns lie in the treatment and disposal of drill cuttings, produced water and CO2, with re-injection into reservoirs or aquifers being a key technology. In the short to medium term, hydrocarbon transport will remain a source of risk for marine environments, and improvements in leak management (from pipelines) and spill response will play a major role.

Recommendations: The work package then defined the actions which need be done to address these capability gaps. In some cases, significant research, technology development or demonstration activities are underway. In other cases, however, there appears to be a lack of effort to fill these capability gaps. Introduction of new techniques and practices within the offshore energy industry is only effective if it is integrated with the decision-making processes already existing, and also is reflected in related policies. Through dialogue with a wide range of different stakeholders, the work package has mapped the important linkages affecting such a holistic risk management view, as illustrated below.

Five key recommendations resulting:
- Appraisal of the total ecological stress on marine ecosystems, across all industrial activities which result in impacts on the marine environment. At present, each industry considers its own impacts (at best) in isolation of other industries.
- Improved understanding of how marine ecosystems interact, through complex food webs and through migration of species populations at different life-cycle stages.
- Inclusion of the potential impacts of climate change on the resilience of marine ecosystems. These impacts are presently not known.
- Robust techniques for identifying hazards affecting marine ecosystems, and for monitoring environmental impacts.
- Inclusion of the above within environmental management systems practices by companies, so that improvement targets can better reflect new understanding of environmental risks.

Follow-up: The work package partners are continuing to pursue the implementation of projects which address these recommendations. These planned projects address items 2 to 5 above and are described below. These projects also plan to address related and supporting requirements for advances in technology and knowledge. In addition, more detailed plans for new environmental risk assessment techniques have been considered in WP8b. These project ideas are being advanced after TRENDS through participation in major initiatives on development of environmental decision support systems (e.g. through EC FP6 and FP7), and are also being considered further through interaction with EUROGIF.

Reported by

Waterfront Campus, European Way
United Kingdom
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