BP today announced a commitment of up to $500 million to an open research program studying the impact of the Deepwater Horizon incident, and its associated response, on the marine and shoreline environment of the Gulf of Mexico.
“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. 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. 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,” said Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive.
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 examine topics 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?
- 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; and for remediating the impact of oil accidentally released to the ocean?
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. 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. More immediately, a baseline of information for the long-term research program is needed. A first grant to Louisiana State University will help kick start this work.
“LSU 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. 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,” said Professor Christopher d’Elia, Dean of the School of the Coast and Environment.