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Research Document - 2011/060

Consideration of the Potential Impacts on the Marine Environment Associated with Offshore Petroleum Exploration and Development Activities

By K. Lee, S.L. Armsworthy, S.E. Cobanli, N.A. Cochrane, P.J. Cranford, A. Drozdowski, D. Hamoutene, C.G. Hannah, E. Kennedy, T. King, H. Niu, B.A. Law, Z. Li, T.G. Milligan, J. Neff, J.F. Payne, B.J. Robinson, M. Romero, and T. Worcester


Over the past few decades, in addition to global efforts, a significant amount of knowledge from scientific studies and environmental effects monitoring (EEM) programs has been gathered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) on the potential impacts of exploration and development from oil and gas activities on marine ecosystems and marine resources. There have also been advances in operational techniques, including mitigation protocols, that have been developed in an effort to minimize the potential impacts of offshore petroleum resource recovery on marine ecosystems and marine resources. This research document is a compilation of DFO's most up-to-date ‘state of knowledge’ of the potential impacts of typical offshore petroleum activities that may arise in context of marine ecosystems and marine resources. The document has the following objectives under its Terms of Reference:

The content of this document builds on earlier reports of Gordon (1988) and Boudreau et al. (1999), which summarized and quantified possible environmental impacts of petroleum exploration activities on Georges Bank. The scope of this document has been expanded to include the effects of production operations. The decision to broaden the scope was based on the fact that the overall life of a production field is generally on the order of decades, which far exceeds the duration of seismic surveys or exploratory drilling programs that typically last from tens of days to a few months, respectively. In addition, the potential impacts associated with the offshore petroleum production phase can be considerably different from the potential impacts associated with exploration activities.

The primary intent of the document is to summarize the existing state of knowledge. Some remaining knowledge gaps have been identified, although this is not the major focus of the document and it should not be viewed as a comprehensive review of research needs. The document only considers the state of knowledge of potential impacts on marine environments associated with offshore petroleum exploration prior to April 2010. It does not consider any new knowledge or lessons that may have been learned from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill associated with the April 20, 2010, accident of the Deepwater Horizon. Furthermore, the document is not to be viewed as an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) nor will such an assessment be provided with this document. Last, the document complements the document of Kennedy et al. (2011) entitled ‘The Marine Ecosystem of Georges Bank’ (DFO. Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2011/059. xiv + 232pp).    

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