Department of the Interior

The Department of the Interior performs biological and physical research; conducts mapping, monitoring and assessment programs throughout Alaska and its offshore regions; and manages Department lands in Alaska. These activities are performed by services or bureaus, each with administrative and technical offices located in Alaska.

Minerals Management Service

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) has the statutory responsibilities to manage the mineral resources located on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in an environmentally sound and safe manner and to collect, verify and distribute mineral revenues from Federal and Indian lands.

In support of these responsibilities, MMS conducts two major programs of research that are relevant to activities in the Arctic. One, the Technology Assessment and Research (TA&R) program, focuses on engineering and technology issues. The other, the Environmental Studies (ES) program, focuses on issues related to assessing and predicting potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts.

Technology Assessment and Research Program

The MMS supports an active research program to understand the engineering constraints for offshore operations, especially as related to the structural integrity of structures and pipelines, the prevention of pollution, and the technologies necessary to clean up an oil spill should one occur. In essence, the program provides an independent assessment of the status of OCS technologies and, where deemed necessary, investigates technology gaps and provides leadership in reaching solutions. The program also facilitates a dialogue among engineers in the industry, the research community and MMS in dealing with the many complex issues associated with offshore oil and gas operations.


FY 96 FY 97

Technology Assessment/Research 3,320 3,270
Environmental Studies 1,810 3,700
Total 4,130 6,970

The TA&R program, which includes both Safety and Pollution Prevention Research, and Oil Spill Response Research, continues as an essential and integral element of the MMS regulatory program. The TA&R program does not address the economics of operations, which are in the purview of industry. On the contrary, it specifically addresses the functional needs of the MMS to provide for a sound technology base for regulatory decisions to ensure safe and pollution-free operations.

In the past the program was motivated by the need to acquire basic engineering information necessary to oversee the general development of offshore operations. As a direct result of research funded by the TA&R program, regulatory changes were initiated on the design and operation of diverter systems, well control procedures and training requirements, the need for periodic platform inspections, methodologies for assessing the integrity of older or damaged platforms, the reduction of exhaust pollution offshore, and the development of oil pollution plans to ensure that the proper equipment, personnel and procedures were available to respond to an offshore oil spill, should one occur.

However, the future has provided new goals and directions for offshore oil and gas research initiatives. This new emphasis is a result of past technology developments, economic constraints within the industry and a continuing need to ensure that offshore oil and gas operations can be conducted in a safe manner without harm to the environment.

With a sound appreciation for the current state of offshore technology, the TA&R program will continue to focus its research efforts in the following four areas:

The TA&R program is a contract research program; that is, the research is not performed within the agency but is conducted by academic institutions, private industry and government laboratories. Studies are performed in cooperation with the offshore industry or with other agencies or governments. This aspect of the program provided an important multiplier of funding support, but probably of equal importance is the discourse it provides with the industry.

The ability to work together to assess a particular technology or the rationale for future technical developments helps both industry and government. Such cooperation and dialogue allow us to understand each other's needs and eliminate possible conflicts or misunderstandings concerning the engineering feasibility of an operational decision. As a result of this dialogue, a valuable exchange of information is provided between MMS and the industry.

Safety and Pollution Prevention Research
Arctic offshore operations have been hampered more by the lack of commercially economic discoveries than by technology. The industry has tended to develop onshore resources in the Arctic with just minimal exploration and development offshore. However, recently there has been an increased interest by the oil and gas industry in Arctic offshore resources.

Sea ice is still the most severe environmental hazard posed by the Arctic relative to future offshore development. Such hazards include forces that moving sea ice may exert against offshore structures, icing of structures resulting from freezing spray, gouging of the sea floor by sea ice (which could interfere with buried pipelines), and interference with locating or cleaning up a potential oil spill. Engineering data for these hazards will become increasingly important as operations move from an exploration mode to a production mode and as structures are considered for deeper water, especially within the shear zone or pack ice.

The TA&R program has funded a variety of projects and major international workshops to develop a better understanding of the engineering constraints for operating in the harsh Arctic environment:

The International Workshop on Ice Scour and Arctic Marine Pipelines was held in February 1998 in Mombetsu, Hokkaido, Japan, in association with the 13th International Symposium on Okhotsk Sea and Sea Ice. It was a joint project between the MMS, the Centre for Cold Ocean Resources Engineering (C-CORE) from Memorial University of Newfoundland, and Sakhalin Oil and Gas from Okha, Russia. The general aim of the workshop was to review the current understanding of the mechanics of ice keel scour, the ability to model the scouring process, and the application of models to the issue of pipeline burial and protection. The workshop attracted scientists and engineers from Canada, Russia, the U.S., Japan, the U.K. and Norway.

Most attendees agreed that the 1996 International Workshop on Human Factors in Offshore Operations held in New Orleans, Louisiana, was long overdue. They felt it was time for professionals representing industry, government and academic institutions to discuss the status of human factors offshore. The need was to review what was done in the past, what we are doing now, and what we can do in the future to lower the risk and the number of human factors related to possible incidents in offshore operations. The supportive remarks, keynote addresses and theme papers presented by government leaders, representatives from regulatory and certification agencies, and management of several international oil companies clearly demonstrated the importance of human factors issues to both industry and government. Six topics were selected to establish the status of human factors spanning the life cycle of an offshore facility: design, fabrication and installation, field operations, management system, standards and regulations, and science and application. Each group was successful in capturing the state of the art utilized in offshore facilities from preliminary design to decommissioning. The issues discussed by each working group during the course of the workshop brought out the use and benefits of human factors established in other industries, advances in human factors offshore, and barriers blocking further progress.

In the First International Workshop on Composite Materials for Offshore Operations held in 1993 in Houston, Texas, important recommendations were made by the participants. As a result of these recommendations and with the strong support of the MMS and Department of Energy, U.S. petroleum companies formed an alliance with the domestic manufacturing industry, material suppliers, engineering service companies, and the University of Houston to develop major technological initiatives to accelerate the utilization and deployment of advanced composite materials and structures for future deep-water offshore developments. One of the initiatives was the establishment of the Composites Engineering and Applications Center (CEAC) for Petroleum Exploration and Production at the University of Houston.

In view of the recent and current composite activities, and their potential impact and implications for future offshore exploration, construction and production operations, especially in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea, CEAC and the MMS organized the Second International Conference on Composite Materials for Offshore Operations, which was held in October 1997 in Houston, Texas.

Several critical topics were covered in the conference, including various state-of-the-art developments and applications as well as recent advances in the fundamental science and engineering of offshore composites. A series of opening and keynote lectures were given by internationally recognized experts to review the current state of developments and to assess the future opportunities of composites offshore. On the first day of the meeting, major current industrial developments were discussed, ranging from composite production and drilling risers, mooring systems, platform structures, drill pipe and equipment for extended reach and deviated drilling, tanks and high-pressure vessels, and other advanced applications. On the second day, critical issues addressed included new materials, jet-fire resistance, composite durability, advanced design and reliability, nondestructive evaluation and sensor technology, and standards and codes for offshore composite components. The important regulatory and certification concerns were discussed on the third day, followed by summaries and reports from the individual session chairmen before the conclusion of the conference.

The Pressure Ridge Ice Scour Experiment (PRISE) is also being conducted by C-CORE and addresses the most likely transportation mode for commercial development of oil and gas prospects in the Arctica product pipeline laid on or under the seabed. Marine pipelines in areas frequented by ice will be threatened by grounded or scouring ice masses, which occur periodically throughout the ice season. Pipelines must therefore be protected by trenching or burial to a safe, yet manageable and economical depth below the seabed. The major question facing industry planners and regulatory and design engineers concerns the depth of burial required or trenching and trench backfill requirements. This question arises due to an incomplete understanding of the ice below the incision scour depth. PRISE is designed to increase knowledge of the scouring process and specifically of subscour deformation processes. This integrated, multidisciplinary approach progresses from the selection and development of theoretical and numerical models to corroboration of these models with results of small-scale, high-gravity centrifuge modeling and validation of model results with full-scale observations. The result of the program will be an industry-accepted design tool (a field-verified finite-element model) complete with a set of specific design guidelines.

In offshore environments where ice is present, damage to subsea facilities from icebergs or pressure ridge keels may limit the application of these emerging technologies. Ice damage of seabed facilities typically does not present a direct threat to human health and safety, but it can have severe environmental consequences, as well as economic consequences in terms of both repair costs and downtime. To determine the feasibility of pipelines, wellheads and other structures on the seabed, risk assessment for ice damage must be performed.

Unlike risk assessments for waves, winds and other relatively well understood environmental parameters, approaches to assessing risk for ice loading are not well established. There can also be severe data limitations. With such limited information, risk itself is a random variable. The variance of this random variable (expressing the degree of uncertainty of assessed risk) strongly affects the results of risk analysis and therefore can have important economic impacts. This variance can be reduced by increasing the amount and quality of information, for example, new field investigations, data from other sites with similar conditions, or improved numerical models. Both the proponents of offshore hydrocarbon developments and the regulatory agencies have a vested interest in maximizing the accuracy of risk estimates and understanding and quantifying the uncertainty in risk assessments.

Uncertainty in risk assessment has two main sources. First, there is uncertainty in environmental data. Some environmental parameters such as soil type may be well known or easily quantified through a sampling program. Other parameters, such as pressure ridge keel depths, may be poorly known. Because these types of parameters vary seasonally and annually, short-term sampling programs cannot completely define the phenomenon. Other information such as ice scour frequency may be unknown and not easily measured. Data of this type must be estimated. Each parameter has a different level of importance in a risk analysis and a different degree of uncertainty associated with it. Knowing the existence of these uncertainties, MMS initiated a research project to establish a framework for assessing risks associated with ice damage to Arctic seabed facilities. Phases 1 and 2 of the PRISE project included phenomenological (field) studies, theoretical studies and physical experiments.

Continuing industry interest, partly because of the potential offshore hydrocarbon developments around Sakhalin Island, Russia, prompted Phase 3 of PRISE to extend the database of physical experimentation and to adapt an existing commercially available engineering model to the design of pipelines.

The MMS is part of a joint industry program (JIP), through the Center for Engineering Research in Canada, directed at optimizing pipeline integrity maintenance activities using a risk-based approach. The goal of the JIP is to develop models and software tools for estimating the risk levels associated with individual pipelines or individual segments within a pipeline system. The models and tools developed will allow risk reductions associated with various inspection and maintenance activities to be quantified, providing a basis for comparing alternatives. The overall framework will include an approach to evaluate potential risk-reduction benefits against the associated costs, allowing optimal decisions to be made regarding the choice of an integrity maintenance strategy. Integrity maintenance decisions have traditionally been based on subjective assessments of pipeline inspection data. More recently, engineering analysis of the data has provided a more rational basis for technical decisions.

Risk analysis can transform inspection data into information that is directly related to the operator's objective, namely to reduce the probability of failure of individual segments within a pipeline system in a balanced manner that acknowledges the potential difference in the consequences of failure associated with different line segments.

The potential economic benefits to pipeline operators of using a risk-based approach are significant. On one hand, any small reduction in failure rates resulting from better maintenance planning would reduce the potentially high cost of failure. On the other hand, if excessive conservatism in repair strategies can be identified and eliminated, costly premature maintenance activities may be avoided.

Post-scour examination of the Phase 3 PRISE centrifuge model tests show that surface and subsurface scour-induced deformation structures observed from the Phase 2 full-size scour marks in the field could be reliably modeled in the centrifuge. Sub-scour soil deformation empirical relationships for the ice-soil interaction at steady state were developed from examination of the physical centrifuge model test data. The observed extent and magnitude of sub-scour deformations for mean scour events were much larger than previously anticipated.

These PRISE tests provided data for scour depths and widths as large as 1.49 and 30 m, respectively, in clay and 2.14 and 30 m in sand. However, extreme events on the order of a 5-m depth and/or a 100-m width might be expected in areas with development potential. The current Phase 3 program is determining the forces and soil deformation effects of extreme full-scale ice keel scour events in medium-dense sand and stiff clay through the use of centrifuge modeling. These new experimental data are being used to expand the empirical relationship to include extreme scour events. However, the Phase 3 tests have also indicated large and extensive normalized sub-scour deformations for extreme ice scour events. This test series has been extended to simulate both the ice-scour conditions expected for the pipeline development for Northstar, Alaska, in silt, and for Sakhalin I, Russia, in sand. The new tests conducted in a dilatant silt have also shown large and extensive normalized sub-scour deformations. These normalized deformations are apparently larger than those observed in compressible materials. It is this observation from centrifuge model tests that needs confirmation from further field evidence and numerical simulations. In this regard the TA&R program funded an effort to conduct a field study to allow for direct observation of sub-scour deformation.

The principle objective of this proposal is to confirm the magnitude and extent of sub-scour (zone 2) deformations in a dilatant soil, such as a compact silt. This confirmation is essential to achieve the PRISE goaldeveloping the capability to design pipelines and other seabed installations in regions gouged by ice, taking into account the soil deformations and stress changes that may be caused during a gouge event. The objective will be achieved by three activities:

Although the above projects address critical areas for Arctic offshore facilities, additional research is still required to demonstrate fully that the technology is available to design, construct and operate facilities in this ice-laden region. In addition to the development of numerical models, actual field programs are needed to improve the understanding of sea ice and the ice-structure interaction process. Research is also needed to improve probabilistic models for estimating year-round ice loads for permanent production structures. There are added load uncertainties due to the extended exposure periods of production structures, and these uncertainties must be considered in the design process. These areas will be addressed by the TA&R program in the near future.

Alaskan Arctic offshore oil and gas deposits may be one of the major undeveloped petroleum resources remaining in the U.S. The capability to drill exploratory wells in water depths up to 200 feet in the Arctic has been proven. As noted previously, production in these areas has been negated more by the lack of commercial, economic discoveries than by the lack of technology. The information gained as activities are extended into deep water and more hostile ice conditions, combined with extensive research, should provide a solid technological base for future operations.

Oil Spill Response Research
For the last several years the MMS has been the principal U.S. agency sponsoring offshore oil spill response research. Since the late 1970s the MMS has managed a comprehensive international Oil Spill Response Research Program (OSRRP) to improve oil spill response technologies and procedures as part of the TA&R program. The OSRRP has improved existing capabilities to respond to open-ocean oil spills. The OSRRP was expanded in 1986 by coordinating and cooperative funding of research within the purview of both Environment Canada and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. This partnership is continuing, and many of MMS's oil spill research projects are JIPs where MMS leverages its money by as much as 6:1. The OSRRP complies with Title VII of the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990 and participates in the Interagency Coordinating Committee for Oil Pollution Research. The OSRRP receives its funding through the OPA.

The OSRRP research objectives are to:

Through MMS funding, scientists and engineers from the public and private sectors worldwide are working to address gaps in information and develop technology for cleaning up oil spills. This, in turn, will reduce the impact and environmental damage caused by oil spills. Promising results have been obtained in many areas, such as burning of spilled oil, mechanical containment/cleanup devices and techniques, understanding the behavior of spilled oil, airborne and satellite remote sensing of oil spills, and evaluating oil spill chemical treating agents such as dispersants.

In-Situ Burning. Research results from the meso-scale burns in Mobile, Alabama (1991-1994), the Newfoundland Offshore Burn Experiment, and more recently, the Alaska Clean Seas, Emulsion Burn Experiments, indicate that burning is a rapid, effective and environmentally safe means for removing large quantities of oil from the surface of the water. In public and government forums, burning has become accepted as a first response method. However, questions remain about the effects of in-situ burning on both water and air quality. In addition, improvements are needed in equipment to conduct in-situ burns, such as durable fire-resistant booms, as well as research to extend the "window of opportunity" for use of in-situ burning as oil weathers and emulsifies. The following research projects address public and technical concerns about in-situ burning through experiments in the laboratory, in meso-scale tests and in full-scale tests at sea.

A recent project called Meso-Scale In-Situ Burn Testing of Alaskan Crude Oils studied the ignition and burning characteristics of five Alaskan oils during Phases 1 and 2. Phase 3 involved approximately 54 meso-scale (7-ft-diameter) burns with fresh, weathered and emulsified Alaska North Slope and Milne Point crude oils in 6- to 12-in.-high waves at the ARCO Fire Training Ground wave tank at Prudhoe Bay. The tests, conducted in August and September 1997, provided the information necessary to design appropriate large-scale tests offshore. Future large-scale tests will assess the capabilities and limitations of using emulsion breakers to extend the window of opportunity for in-situ burning operations.

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) ALOFT (A Large Outdoor Fire Plume Trajectory) model is widely recognized as a tool for computing and displaying smoke plume trajectories from in-situ burning. In the event of a burn, responders can rapidly access ALOFT predictions and other in-situ burning data to predict the trajectory and concentrations of soot and other combustion products. The ALOFT model of smoke transport is capable of predicting time-averaged downwind concentrations of particulate matter from a large fire. Model assumptions include a uniform ambient wind blowing over relatively flat terrain. The model has been expanded to include the effect of varying wind velocity with altitude and the ability to calculate smoke plume concentrations as a function of time. The model has also been expanded to calculate the soot production from multiple smoke plumes over flat terrain.

Two model versions now exist: ALOFT-FT for flat terrain and ALOFT-CT for complex terrain (mountainous regions, for example). Both the flat terrain and three-dimensional complex terrain versions are operational on work stations, and both versions can accommodate multiple fire sources. Development work on the computational portions of the models has been completed. ALOFT-FT for personal computers has undergone two rounds of beta testing. Based on input from users, several significant new features have been added, including multiple fire sources, a fuel properties database that can be modified by the user, optional user-specified emission factors, and the ability to specify different wind fluctuations over water and land. This version is being prepared for general distribution to the response community.

Work will continue on installing the ALOFT-FT and ALOFT-CT versions of the model on personal computers on a routine basis. In this next phase, NIST will add a three-dimensional graphical animation of a smoke plume to the flat terrain model to aid in visualizing the model output. In addition, a beta version of the ALOFT-CT model for personal computers will be developed. ALOFT-CT requires input data on the terrain and a wind field and requires substantially greater execution time than ALOFT-FT. ALOFT-FT is adequate in most areas except where smoke is expected to move into mountainous terrain. Large mountains, such as those found along the coast of Alaska, can have a substantial impact on the smoke plume trajectory and require ALOFT-CT.

In a study of fire-resistant booms, six commercially available offshore fire booms produced by five manufacturers were tested at Ohmsett between July and October 1996. The objectives of this first phase of the tests were to examine the sea-keeping and oil-containing ability of the booms. The booms were tested to determine first-loss tow speed, oil loss rate, critical tow speed and wave conformance. No burning performance was measured during these tests. Four of the booms performed within speed and oil loss rates that have been measured for regular commercial booms. One boom was found to be superior in wave conformance and critical tow speed, but this boom was at the lower part of the range for first-loss tow speed. A prototype boom with a unique paddle-wheel operating system was found in need of further development.

Phase 2 evaluated five of the booms tested in Phase 1 for thermal stress and mechanical performance when exposed to a liquid-fuel fire in waves. The Phase 2 test series was conducted in September and October 1997 at the U.S. Coast Guard Fire and Safety Test Detachment in Mobile, Alabama. The test pan is 100 feet long by 30 feet wide by 5 feet deep and contains a wave maker and an artificial beach. These tests were conducted using a test plan developed from the ASTM F-20 Draft Standard Guide for In Situ Burning of Oil Spills On Water: Fire Resistant Containment Boom.The fire was burning diesel fuel floating on water. These experiments provided additional data on the heat flux to the boom from a liquid-fuel fire.

Another project involves redesigning an existing large stainless steel boom to reduce its size, weight and cost. The stainless steel boom was first designed, constructed and tested in the early 1980s. It was built to survive for extended periods in steep Arctic waves, carry high loads, withstand impacts from ice, and operate in flames for long periods. Because of the rigorous performance criteria in the original design, the boom is expensive, heavy and cumbersome to deploy manually. This project will be completed in four phases:

A recent literature review on soot production during in-situ burning of oil attempted to determine the range of soot yield generated by in-situ burning of petroleum oils on water, and the effects of the size of the fire and the type of fuel used. The natural variability of fires and the difficulty in measuring soot yield precludes highly accurate, repeat-able measurements. However, very general conclusions can be drawn from the data. It appears that the soot yield from in-situ petroleum fires range from approximately 1 to 10% for fires less than 10 cm in diameter; 5 to 15% for fires in the 10- to 100-cm range; and 10 to 25% for fires greater than 1 m.

Remote Sensing/Surveillance. A project to develop a scanning laser environmental airborne fluorosensor (SLEAF) has the following objectives:

The SLEAF development is nearing completion, with delivery and aircraft installation set for February 1998. The SLEAF system will employ a state-of-the-art laser optimized for fast deployment and the detection of oil contamination on shorelines, land, snow and ice and at sea. It will have an adjustable scanning capability that will allow for selection of the optimum swath to respond to various spill conditions. This capability will maximize coverage on shorelines, broken ice conditions on water, and other complicated surfaces.

The SLEAF has been designed to provide a real-time annotated map. This geo-referenced map will be faxed or otherwise transmitted to oil spill response personnel. The timely information provided by the SLEAF sensor will help mitigate the harmful effects of an oil spill by ensuring a fast and effective response. The SLEAF will detect and classify oil in real time. Geo-referenced oil contamination locations will be easily visible on the hard-copy map output. Once the SLEAF has been installed in Environment Canada's aircraft, it will undergo a period of flight testing to verify the proper operation of the system under airborne conditions and ensure that the system complies with all design specifications.

Physical Behavior of Oil. The objective of these projects is to improve our understanding of the behavior and fate of spilled oil and to develop models to predict oil behavior. They also include measuring the physical and chemical properties of oils and including the results in a database. Elements to be addressed include oil weathering, evaporation, water-in-oil emulsification, dispersion, dissolution and photo-oxidation.

A catalog of oil properties was first compiled by Environment Canada (EC) in 1984. The MMS has jointly funded the catalog program since 1989. The catalog was started to provide a single reference on the physical and chemical data relevant to oil spills. The current edition (December 1996) of the catalog contains information on over 380 types of crude oils and petroleum products, including many Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) crude oils. The catalog is available in electronic format and has been distributed to all MMS OCS regions and other Federal agencies. The data are also available on a public bulletin board maintained by EC as well as online at the EC home page.

The catalog contains many new items such as adhesion measurements, evaporation equations, a new form of distillation data, BTEX and C3 analysis. It is now possible to obtain over 800 pieces of information for each oil. A new report format has been created that is more attractive and easier to use. EC is currently negotiating with Elsevier regarding printing of the December 1996 edition. This year the main catalog will include some new oils, and the project will continue measuring properties of oils and petroleum products for future updates to the catalog. In addition, a "mini-catalog" was prepared for the Gulf of Mexico crude oils, and a similar document will be prepared relating to oils imported into the Pacific coast.

The Behavior of Oil Spills (BOSS) project is designed to provide a comprehensive review of information concerning the behavior of spilled oil. The emphasis is on the behavior of oil spilled at sea but will also include information on oil spilled on land, in fresh water and in the ground. The final report will combine the literature on oil spill behavior and findings from previous jointly funded research projects with MMS. Over 5500 papers have been collected and initially reviewed to date. This project will result in a series of volumes combining the review of the literature with data tables and unpublished results. The oil-in-ice review has been completed. Work is continuing on the sections on solubility, evaporation and emulsification.

The current Basics of Oil Spill Cleanup manual was published in 1983 by EC and is in the process of being updated. The manual explains what happens to oil when it is accidentally spilled on water or land and the specific cleanup strategies that are possible under varying environmental conditions. The draft chapters of the updated manual are undergoing final review. Over 200 high-quality photographs have been collected and the line graphics are complete. Negotiations with Lewis Publishers to publish the manual have taken place.

Shoreline Cleanup. The Svalbard Shoreline Project is part of a series of studies to better understand the behavior of oil on shorelines and determine the most appropriate response options. Shoreline cleanup operations following a spill in a remote area are limited by the constraints of available equipment and personnel and by the desire to minimize waste materials that require transport and disposal. In such cases the preferred option is to treat the oil on site so that natural environmental recovery is accelerated without a labor-intensive effort. The Svalbard Shoreline Project, along with the related Oil and Fines Interaction Basin Project, will investigate the effectiveness of traditional shoreline cleanup techniques as well as the natural processes that remove oil from shorelines. Special emphasis will be placed on oil and fine particle interaction.

The Svalbard Shoreline Project is evaluating the cleanup techniques of surf washing, tilling, and tilling combined with bioremediation at an experimentally oiled shoreline. These techniques have been used frequently, but only qualitative data are available on the relative efficiencies of the various techniques. To date, only post-spill studies have been conducted, while these projects will evaluate cleanup techniques with basin-scale and field-scale trials on experimentally oiled sites after pre-oiling conditions at the beaches have been studied.

In July and August 1997 near Sveagruva, Svalbard, Norway, experimental plots were established for cleanup operations at three sites along a continuously oiled stretch of shoreline. A total of about 6000 L of oil was applied along a 3-m-wide swath in the upper intertidal zone of the shoreline. Early results indicate that the surf washing technique was effective, with obvious removal of oil. Also encouraging was the use of fertilizers, in both slow release and soluble forms. The nutrients stimulated microbial activity and may enhance the effectiveness of mechanical removal techniques.

The University of New Hampshire is in the second year of an effort to develop fast-current oil barriers having substantially better performance characteristics than the standard, single-vertical-barrier oil boom. These improvements include increased tow speeds and more effective oil retention in the new boom design. First-year work resulted in the two-dimensional submerged plane concept that was tested in a laboratory flume using oils with a wide range of properties. Second-year accomplishments include the design, construction and testing of flexible, three-dimensional submerged plane systems that improved on the first cross-sectional design. The goal is to fabricate one or more prototypes for full-scale testing.

In addition to further developing the submerged plane technology in a new boom design, there is a companion effort at the University of Rhode Island to develop a computer model that evaluates and predicts the causes of boom failure and oil loss. The computer model now operates in only two dimensions. The model will be validated at the Ohmsett facility by comparing its predictions with actual boom performance under controlled conditions. Eventually this model may be used to evaluate and suggest improvements to boom designs.

The fast-current boom prototype will be tested by JPS/Oiltrol, a manufacturer of oil spill response equipment. Field testing will include participation in harbor response exercises conducted by the Piscataqua River Cooperative, which is a consortium of four petroleum product terminals on the fast-moving, tidally influenced Piscataqua River in New Hampshire. Final product evaluations will be conducted at Ohmsett. If the tests are successful, JPS/Oiltrol intends to make the fast-current boom into a commercially viable product.

Ohmsett. The national oil spill response test facility known as Ohmsett is located in Leonardo, New Jersey, on the grounds of Naval Weapons Station Earle. Ohmsett is the only facility in the world where clients can test and evaluate full-scale oil spill response equipment with a variety of crude oils and refined petroleum products. Equipment tests are conducted under controlled, reproducible conditions, and the Ohmsett test tank has a variable artificial wave maker. Ohmsett is also a unique facility to do research and development on new devices and techniques to detect, map, contain and clean up oil spills.

The Environmental Protection Agency built Ohmsett in 1973 and operated it until 1988, when MMS assumed management responsibility. MMS directed its refurbishment between 1990 and 1992 at a cost of over $1.5 million, extending the life of the facility by an estimated 15-20 years.

The primary feature of the facility is a pile-supported, concrete tank with a water surface 203 m long by 20 m wide with a water depth of 2.4 m. The tank is filled with 9.84 million liters of brackish water from nearby Sandy Hook Bay. The tank has a movable, cable-drawn towing bridge capable of towing floating test equipment at graduated speeds up to 3.3 m/s for at least 40 s. The towing bridge is equipped to lay oil on the surface of the water several meters ahead of the equip-ment being tested, so that reproducible thicknesses and widths of test oils are achievable with minimal wind interference. The principal operating systems of the tank include a wave generator, a beach and a filter system. The wave generator and absorber beach have the capability to produce regular waves up to 0.6 m high and up to 45 m long, as well as a series of 0.7-m-high reflected waves.

Because of improved marketing efforts, the usage of Ohmsett has increased dramatically, from a total of only 32 days of testing at Ohmsett in FY 93 out a possible maximum of 150 test days per year to 114 test days in FY 96. The client base has increased to include academic research organizations and commercial firms in addition to the traditional U.S. and Canadian government agencies. Even with a major program of maintenance, refurbishment and upgrades to Ohmsett over the winter of 1997, which delayed the start of testing until June, there were still over 100 test days in FY 97. In addition to testing and equipment development, FY 97 saw Ohmsett being used as a "hands on" training facility for the first time by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Alaska Environmental Studies Program

As the managing agency for the OCS leasing program in Alaska, the MMS Alaska Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Region has conducted environmental studies to obtain information needed to make sound leasing decisions and to monitor the human, marine and coastal environments. In Alaska more than $250 million has been spent on studies in 15 OCS planning areas in the Arctic, Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska subregions. These studies cover a range of disciplines such as endangered species, living resources, fate and effects, and socioeconomics.

Regional government leaders, traditional knowledge sources, environmental groups, oil and fishing industry personnel, studies contractors and other scientists, and Federal, state and local agencies help the MMS to identify environmental issues and information needs. Information transfer meetings and workshops are convened to bring together information from these key sources. The overlap of shared knowledge results in a synthesis of information that identifies studies needed to meet the current focus on postlease and monitoring information requirements.

In 1993 the MMS established a Coastal Marine Institute (CMI) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) to take advantage of environmental scientific expertise at local levels. Under a recently extended cooperative agreement, the MMS committed $1 million per year for studies to be conducted by the CMI if matching state funds were available. The institute conducts research focused on environmental, social and economic studies relevant to both Federal and state offshore oil and gas and mineral resource management issues. The UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Science, nationally renowned for its coastal/marine expertise, manages the CMI. The institute creates an opportunity for the MMS and the state to accomplish research programs that could not otherwise be carried out.

Endangered Species
The bowhead whale, an endangered marine mammal of high importance to Native cultures in the Arctic, migrates through areas in which oil and gas have been discovered. Efforts to define the migration corridors of bowhead whales and their responses to offshore operations continued through 1997 under the ongoing in-house Bowhead Whale Aerial Survey Project (BWASP). Annual reports of the fall bowhead migration are available through fall 1996.

The BWASP provides real-time data on each fall migration of bowhead whales across the Alaskan Beaufort Sea for implementing overall limitations on seasonal drilling and geological/geophysical exploration. The fall 1996 report showed that the cumulative median water depth at which whales were observed is 37 m, with a high level of significance between the 1983 median water depth (347 m) and the median value for other years (1982-1996). There also was a high level of significance between the 1989 median value (18 m) and the median values for other years. Between-year differences in the median water depth at which whales were spotted appear to be correlated to the general severity of sea ice during the fall migration. During the fall 1997 survey, observers spotted record numbers of bowheads feeding near shore in the Beaufort Sea.

A recently completed study, Effects of Production Activities on Arctic Whales, documented the effects of underwater noise on bowhead whales. Experimental playbacks of operational sounds caused statistically significant alterations in the migration paths of individual whales, but the overall biological significance was considered to be negligible. Under an ongoing extension of this study, the researcher is drafting nine journal articles about the main conclusions of this multi-year study.

Scientist deploying a hydrophone to study the effects of production noise on marine animals.

A recently awarded multi-year study called Bowhead Whale Feeding in the Eastern Alaskan Beaufort Sea: Update of Scientific and Traditional Information will augment scientific and traditional knowledge about bowhead whale feeding in the eastern Alaskan Beaufort Sea. The researcher will coordinate with area whale hunters and other key stakeholders to develop hypotheses that scientists and subsistence hunters concur can be scientifically tested. Based on these hypotheses and a summary of available scientific and traditional information, the researcher will design and propose appropriate research options for determining the importance of the area to feeding bowheads, characterizing the ambient acoustic environment in the study area, and predicting sound levels of oil and gas industry activity received by feeding whales.

The 1997 MMS-sponsored Arctic Seismic Synthesis and Mitigating Measures Workshop provided subsistence whaling captains and representatives from the MMS, other agencies and industry with opportunities to discuss their concerns about the effects of offshore seismic operations on bowhead whales. Recommendations for improved communications, technological improvements and research needs were identified. The main conclusions and recommendations have been incorporated into National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) analyses and planning documents.

Living Resources
An ongoing international cooperative study called the Beluga Satellite Tagging Project involves the coordinated efforts of the MMS, the Canadian Fisheries Joint Management Committee (Inuvik, NWT), the United Kingdom Sea Mammal Research Unit, and Inuvialuit hunters to capture and track the fall migration of beluga whales through Alaskan Beaufort Sea OCS areas. Satellite tags were placed on the belugas in the summer of 1997 by capture teams from the Canadian Beaufort Sea villages of Inuvik, Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk. The teams relied on their local traditional knowledge to identify the best shallow-water capture sites in Canadian Beaufort estuaries and the latest time window for capture prior to the fall migration. Satellite-linked time/depth recorders and transmitter tags obtained detailed information on beluga migration routes through oil and gas lease areas in the Beaufort Sea to determine detailed beluga migration routes to overwintering areas of concentration, population estimates based on aerial surveys, and habitat preferences as they relate to sea ice and continental shelf geomorphology.

A nearly completed CMI study called Testing Conceptual Models of Marine Mammal Trophic Dynamics Using Carbon and Nitrogen Stable Isotope Ratios found that there may be a split in trophic status between populations of Steller sea lions. Harbor seals also have moved upwards by approximately half a trophic level. This finding is not incompatible with observed regime shifts in fisheries from an ecosystem dominated by crab, capelin, herring and shrimp to one dominated in recent years by pollock and flatfish. The study also produced ocean maps of carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios in zooplankton taxa that are key to the support of commercially and ecologically important top consumers. The database for the maps is large enough to confidently assess year-to-year and geographic differences in productivity regimes.

A nearly completed project with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found that sea otters between Cape Hinchinbrook and Cape Spencer in the Gulf of Alaska have increased in abundance and expanded in range since the last survey of the area in 1987.

The MMS initiated a study in 1997 that is investigating linkages between forage fish and their physical and biological environment in lower Cook Inlet and Shelikof Strait. The study is exploring the status of forage fishes by multi-year sampling to determine their relative biomass, nutritional status and exposure to organic contaminants. The first sampling, conducted in the Tuxedni Bay/Chisik Island area of Cook Inlet in August 1997, netted large numbers of Pacific herring, several species of smelt, Dolly Varden char, Pacific tomcod, many shrimp juveniles, mysids, many euphausids and other fish species. The forage fish are currently undergoing analyses of proximate composition, stomach contents and cytochrome P450. The resulting data will provide a basis for decisions regarding mitigations and for future damage assessment, if necessary. This study will provide useful information for exploration monitoring and postlease environmental assessments for historical, current and future offshore operations in lower Cook Inlet.

Defining Habitats for Juvenile Flatfishes in South Central Alaska is a multi-year CMI study that is examining seasonal changes in the abundance and distribution of juvenile flatfishes by identifying and quantifying species-specific habitat preferences for the most abundant flatfish species in southcentral Alaska. The study identifies biologically sensitive areas and is critical to understanding the linkages between physical and ecological processes in the Gulf of Alaska and Cook Inlet for use in analyzing potential oil and gas leasing activities. Among the preliminary findings of this ongoing study are that:

The sampled fish stomachs from this habitat study will be used in another CMI study funded in 1997: The Relationship of Diet to Habitat Preferences of Juvenile Flatfishes in Kachemak Bay, Alaska. A subsample of 80 juvenile flathead sole stomachs will be examined to determine fish diets indexed by prey biomass. In Phase 1 of two phases the researcher will determine what hypotheses are testable, what power the statistical analysis will have, and what sample size will be necessary to bring the power of the statistical tests to the appropriate level prior to the Phase 2 analysis of more than 1500 flathead and rock sole stomachs.

A recently completed CMI fish study, North Slope Amphidromy Assessment, concluded that stable isotopes are effective indicators of fish feeding habits and life history patterns.

Fate and Effects
In the first of two modeling studies begun in 1997, Sintef Applied Chemistry of Trondheim, Norway, will re-evaluate the oil-weathering model currently used by the MMS Gulf of Mexico and Alaska OCS Regions. The model shows how a specific oil would weather after a spill as a function of physical conditions and oil characteristics, and it calculates a mass balance, how much oil evaporates, how much disperses into the water, and how much remains in the slick. The study will evaluate the weaknesses and strengths of the OCS Oil Weathering Model and recommend improved or alternative algorithms.

In the second modeling study the University of Alaska's Institute of Marine Science (IMS) is examining the differences in wind field representations from two meteorological modelsone used by the European Center for Medium Weather Range Forecasting, the other by the U.S. Navy Fleet Numerical Oceanography Center. The study also examines how differences in the two models affect modeled oceanographic circulation in two-dimensional and three-dimensional baroclinic shelf-circulation models.

The MMS also initiated studies of sediment quality in the Gulf of Alaska and the Beaufort Sea. Scientists from A.D. Little, Inc., are conducting the sediment-quality study of depositional areas
in lower Cook Inlet and Shelikof Strait. During the summer of 1997, bottomfish, surface sediments and sediment cores were collected for chemical analyses (petroleum hydrocarbons and trace metals) and source fingerprinting, toxicity bioassays and biomarker analyses. Also during the summer of 1997 the IMS collected surface sediment samples and sediment cores in the nearshore Beaufort Sea between the Colville River and Barter Island for petroleum hydrocarbon and trace metal analyses.

In addition, a final report on the adsorption of aromatic hydrocarbons by marine sediments was completed by scientists at the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology. This study examined adsorption and desorption of benzene, naphthalene and phenanthrene on and from Cook Inlet sediments.

Several new social and economic studies were initiated in 1997. Economic and Social Effects of Diminishing Oil and Gas Industry Activity on Alaskan Communities will document the expansion, decline and recovery of the Alaska economy in the 1975-1995 period, which was driven largely by oil sector activity. This study will document fluctuations in state oil and local government revenues with related effects on local governments and economies, oil company support of community institutions with related effects on those institutions, and employment associated with (and not associated with) fluctuations in the oil industry with related effects on individuals and households. Based on this analysis of economic history, the researcher will formulate options that the MMS and relevant public bodies can implement to mitigate the effects of similar economic fluctuations.

A CMI study, An Economic Assessment of the Marine Sport Fisheries in Lower Cook Inlet, will collect data from sportfishing-guide outfitters and related businesses and from their clients. These data will be used to:

The Exxon Valdez oil spill is likely the world's most studied spill; in addition to published reports, there is an enormous amount of "grey literature." Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Cleanup and Litigation: A Collection of Social-Impact Information and Analysis will collect, organize and synthesize all the information about the oil spill, cleanup and associated litigation. It also will identify key social factors for analyzing this information to determine related effects on the human environment in local communities. Examples of social factors are social organization, cultural values, social health, access to subsistence resources, subsistence hunting and use of subsistence resources. The major product will be a CD-ROM containing an annotated bibliography with abstracts, key social factors and analytical findings.

Traditional knowledge is information possessed primarily by Native American residents and gained from experience in living on the land and water. The Inupiat of the Alaskan North Slope have lived in the Arctic for countless generations and have much knowledge of the biological and physical environment of both the marine and terrestrial ecosystems. However, because most of this knowledge, which has adapted to changes in technology and social/economic conditions, has been passed on orally from one generation to the next, little of it is in published form and even less is indexed. Some traditional knowledge has been written down, recorded, archived and, in some cases, published, but because this knowledge has not been indexed, it is often not available to Western scientists. MMS has initiated an effort that will collect, catalogue and organize appropriate information identified by Inupiat community elders, North Slope Borough subsistence coordinators, Inupiaq Language and Cultural Center personnel, and members of the North Slope Scientific Committee. The information will be attributed, abstracted, key-worded and geographically referenced in a database. The resulting information will be indexed and abstracted on a CD-ROM, and copies will be provided to Alaskan Native communities and Federal, state and local government agencies involved in environmental research and assessment.

Information Transfer
The MMS organized a major Information Transfer Meeting during 1997. When industry announced a nearby oil discovery, the Federal and state governments proposed to re-offer portions of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA) for exploration. Recently the Alaska staffs of the Bureau of Land Management and the MMS were requested to jointly prepare an environmental assessment of the NPRA. In order to quickly prepare NEPA documents with high-quality science, a 1997 NPRA Symposium was coordinated by the Alaska OCS Region. The symposium, attended by over 100 people, effectively demonstrated the large quantity of new environmental, social and cultural information that has been collected since the last leasing and exploration of the NPRA in the mid-1980s.