Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Volume 5 Number 3: The Science of Deepwater Oil Spills - Results from the 2013 Marine Scotland Science Workshop

The workshop on “The Science Of Deepwater Oil Spills – Modelling” held in

Aberdeen in September 2013 included more than 50 experts drawn from academia,

government, consultants and industry to discuss aspects of the science needed to

respond in an effec

The Science Of Deepwater Oil Spills - Results From The 2013 Marine Scotland Science Modelling Workshop
W R Turrell, R O'Hara Murray, B Berx and A Gallego
The Science of Deepwater Oil Spills
Workshop 1 - Modelling

Workshop Recommendations

The workshop on "The Science Of Deepwater Oil Spills - Modelling" held in Aberdeen in September 2013 included more than 50 experts drawn from academia, government, consultants and industry to discuss aspects of the science needed to respond in an effective way to a deepwater oil spill west of Shetland. Experts in oceanography, circulation modelling, oil dispersion modelling, oil spill response and deepwater ecology were present.

Throughout the four sessions of the workshop, certain themes and ideas were repeated by the participants. These have led to the following principal recommendations:


There is a need to develop physical, chemical and biological baselines in the deep waters west of Shetland so that we have data to compare change against in the event of a spill and the response to a spill. Without these we will never be able to identify or quantify effect.

Benchmark Dataset

A "Benchmark Dataset" should be assembled for the area West of Shetland, open to all users. The benchmark dataset should include aspects such as circulation model forcing fields (e.g. meteorological, tidal, density), boundary conditions, observational validation data (e.g. vertical current profiles, drifters), and bathymetry. Such a benchmark dataset would then allow all models of the area to be run with common features in order to aid inter-model comparisons. Such a dataset would be tested by users, and users would be familiar with the data, its access and use. Hence, in the event of an incident, the benchmark dataset would be a principal tool to initiate oil spill models to be used operationally, in the absence of more suitable data.

Model Challenge

A model challenge for circulation and oil spill models should be promoted where models are challenged to simulate a set of specified scenarios west of Shetland. Model outputs should be provided in a specified format again to allow inter-model comparisons, or post-processing scripts for formatting model output should be shared. Such a challenge will have multiple benefits. It will bring together user and modelling communities. It will promote communication and networking prior to an event happening. A model challenge event could be used to address questions such as data assimilation, how to explain and interpret models, model ensembles, model validation, model process scales, etc. It would develop a more standard model output so that models could be more easily compared. It would prepare us to work together in the event of a spill west of Shetland. A model challenge would also enhance linkages between users and modellers in the area west of Shetland.

Tracer Experiment

We should consider a joint industry/science experiment west of Shetland where a tracer is purposefully released sub-surface under conditions that we may experience during a real oil spill event. Observing the dispersion of such a tracer will develop our capacity and practical ability to survey released oil in the event of a real sub-surface oil spill. It can be used in real time as a modelling exercise to test our operational response strategies. It will provide observational data on dispersion processes in the Faroe Shetland Channel, and will provide a benchmark dataset for future modelling work. It will bring together science, industry and regulator in a common exercise. It would test the whole system, and show us how models are embedded in the response system. It would help us develop methods to communicate model predictions to responders.

Community Connections

We should consider how to improve connections and communication between the different sectors which need to work together in order to improve our ability to respond to an oil spill west of Shetland. The sectors include: university based and government agency based oceanographers, chemists, ecologists; university, government and private sector modellers; environmental consultancies; environmental professionals in the oil and gas sector; government and industry responders; oil and gas operators; and government regulators. As spilled oil west of Shetland will rapidly cross national boundaries, these communities should be also include neighbouring countries: Norway, Faroe and Iceland. These communities need to understand each other's needs, and establish personal links before an event occurs, not during one.


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