Oil Spills in Arctic Waters An Introduction and Inventory of Research Activities and USARC Recommendations

  • Date: 30/03/2014
  • Author: US Arctic Research Commission and the US Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory

This “white paper” is a compilation of research on oil spills in ice-covered Arctic waters and recommendations for future work. We identify research entities in governmental, nongovernmental, industrial, and private organizations, and provide an inventory of research projects. Given that much work is currently in progress, we provide only a snapshot in time, and an introduction to the topic.

While an in-depth evaluation of the research results, a prioritization of research and development gaps, and a critical examination of the connection between research and oil spill response capability are undoubtedly important topics,they are beyond the scope of this effort. We hope that our foray into this subject encourages others to address these critical topics. Finally, the US Arctic Research Commission (USARC) closes this paper with recommendations for additional research on the topic of oil spills in icecovered Arctic waters.

The paper begins with a summary of federal efforts in three topic areas: (1) spill demarcation and mitigation, including containment and countermeasures; (2) oil spill response technologies for cleanup and recovery of oil, including affiliated data management tools; and (3) the fate of oil and its effects on the environment.

Following this summary is a discussion of the work of the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research (ICCOPR), whose mission is to coordinate oil pollution research among the federal agencies. The third section describes research efforts by other federal and state agencies, universities, and private entities. The final section highlights nonfederal activities of interest, and plans for additional research.

The white paper focuses primarily on research from the last decade, but it also references prior results, back to the 1980s, because current initiatives build largely on that body of work. USARC’s recommendations for future research are included at the end of the paper.

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