A numerical risk assessment for spills from oil and gas activity around the Arctic Ocean Basin

Hauke Blanken, Bruno Tremblay, Susan Gaskin, Alexander Slavin

Thursday 2 july 2015

12:36 - 12:39h at Europe 1 (level 0)

Themes: (T) Special session, (ST) Oil spill modelling, Poster pitches

Parallel session: Poster pitches: 11J. Special session: Oil Spill Modelling

We present a risk assessment of oil contamination resulting from hypothetical spills at ten sites of current oil and gas activity in the Arctic Ocean basin. Oil is represented as an Eulerian passive tracer in the surface ocean of the MITgcm (a hydrostatic, coupled ice-ocean model). Oil in sea ice and contamination resulting from melting of oiled ice is tracked using an offline, Lagrangian scheme. Continuous spills are initialized on November 1 of the years 1980 to 2010, and tracked for one year. The results from these 31 years are then used to produce probability distributions of contamination from each site. In the North American Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, simulated oil transport is predominantly westward into Russian waters, though some eastward transport up to the western edge of the Amundsen Gulf is predicted. From sites in Baffin Bay and the Greenland Sea, southward oil transport up to Newfoundland and the vicinity of the southern tip of Greenland is simulated. In the Barents, Pechora, and Kara Seas, eastward transport with the North Atlantic Current is simulated. Here transport distances are shorter, and oil is generally predicted to remain within the original basin. Results from sites in the Beaufort, Chukchi, and Barents Seas indicate that spilled oil will likely be transported across international boundaries. In winter, transport is more significant with ice than with surface water, though in open water transport in surface water is greater overall. In either case, the ice edge is observed to restrict the transport of oil into, and out of, the ice pack.