BP Commits $500 Million to Gulf Oil Spill Research

HOUSTON, Texas, May 24, 2010 (ENS) – BP today announced a commitment of up to $500 million over 10 years to an open research program studying the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and its associated response, on the marine and shoreline environment of the Gulf of Mexico.

A first grant to Louisiana State University School of Coast and Environment will start the work by creating a baseline of information for the long term research program.

“BP has made a commitment to doing everything we can to lessen the impact of this tragic incident on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast, said Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive. “We must make every effort to understand that impact. This will be a key part of the process of restoration, and for improving the industry response capability for the future.

Oil soaking Louisiana marshlands, near Pass a Loutre. (Photo courtesy Office of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal)

“There is an urgent need to ensure that the scientific community has access to the samples and the raw data it needs to begin this work,” Hayward said.

The key questions to be addressed by this 10-year research program reflect discussions with the U.S. government and academic scientists in Washington, DC last week.

BP will fund research to answer questions including:

  • Where are the oil, the dispersed oil, and the dispersant going under the action of ocean currents?
  • How do oil, the dispersed oil and the dispersant behave on the seabed, in the water column, on the surface, and on the shoreline?
  • Where are the oil, the dispersed oil, and the dispersant going under the action of ocean currents?

  • What are the impacts of the oil, the dispersed oil, and the dispersant on the biota of the seabed, the water column, the surface, and the shoreline?
  • How do accidental releases of oil compare to natural seepage from the seabed?
  • What is the impact of dispersant on the oil? Does it help or hinder biodegradation?
  • How will the oil, the dispersed oil, and the dispersant interact with tropical storms, and will this interaction impact the seabed, the water column and the shoreline?
  • What can be done to improve technology to detect oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant on the seabed, in the water column, and on the surface?
  • What can be done to improve technology for remediating the impact of oil accidently released to the ocean?

The ongoing oil spill began on April 20 when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which BP had leased from Transocean, Ltd. exploded and caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico 50 miles southeast of Louisiana, killing 11 crewmembers. The rig burned for 36 hours, and then sank on April 22 in water about one mile deep, leaving a broken wellhead from which oil is still gushing.

The oil slick spreading from the Deepwater Horizon disaster covers at least 80,000 square miles and has come ashore in Louisiana and Alabama, threatening fisheries, tourism and wildlife. Federal fisheries managers have closed 20 percent of gulf waters to commercial and recreational fishing.

BP already has ongoing marine research programs in the Gulf of Mexico. Building on these, BP will appoint an independent advisory panel to construct the long term research program and control the research grant awards.

Where appropriate, the studies may be coordinated with the ongoing natural resources damages assessment. The program will engage some of the best marine biologists and oceanographers in the world, the company said.

“Louisiana State University has a significant amount of experience in dealing with the oil and gas industry and deep knowledge pertaining to the Gulf of Mexico across numerous topical disciplines,” said Professor Christopher D’Elia, dean of the School of the Coast and Environment.

“The first part of the program is about obtaining and analyzing samples and assessing immediate impacts. Other areas of importance will emerge as researchers become engaged and the potential impacts from the spill are better understood,”

BP has been collaborating with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography since 2004 in a program aimed at gaining a better understanding of the environment and hazards in oceans, including marine electromagnetic research. The focus of oceanography efforts has been loop currents in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2008, as part of the Deepwater Environmental Long-term Observatory System, BP installed the world’s first system designed to monitor deep-sea marine life. DELOS is supported by Texas A&M in Galveston, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, University of Aberdeen, National Oceanography Centre in Southampton and the University of Glasgow.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.