We have developed effective methods for estimating the environmental impact of untreated and dispersed oil spills and have applied these in several projects for both government and industry clients. Environmental impact analyses have been conducted for spills on the Grand Banks, off the east and west coasts of Canada, in the Alaskan and Canadian Beaufort Sea, off California, in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Gulf of Arabia.
We take particular pride in the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology in oil spill impact assessment. One of our major projects utilizing this technology involved the development of an environmental impact assessment system for oil spills in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Over 70 biological resources and their detailed life histories as a function of season were entered into the GIS in the form of over 400 maps. Our in-house oil-spill behavior model is integrated with the GIS software to provide an automated link between the spill model and the GIS database.
Impact is predicted by integrating data on spill conditions, oil properties, environmental conditions, oil toxicity and resource vulnerability. The system operates very quickly allowing defensible, and thoroughly documented decisions on spill response to be made without undue delay during the emergency situation.
The Gulf of Mexico system is easily adaptable for use in other areas once data on resources, water currents and weather are collected and digitized in the GIS. All other elements of the system remain virtually unchanged including the spill trajectory model, the environmental impact algorithms and the various programs to ensure that the system operates quickly and with minimum user input. The system was installed quickly in Bahrain and Qatar at the end of the Persian Gulf war to assist in the assessment of possible impacts from the oil spilled during the conflict.
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