Environmental Assessment of an Active Oil Field in the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico, 1977-1978



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National Marine Fisheries Service


Objectives of the project are (1) to identify and document the types and extent of biological, chemical and physical alterations of the marine ecosystem associated with Buccaneer Oil Field, (2) to determine specific pollutants, their quantity and effects, and (3) to develop the capability to describe and predict fate and effects of Buccaneer Oil Field contaminants. The project uses historical and new data and includes investigations both in the field and in the laboratory. A brief Pilot Study was conducted in the fall and winter of 1975-76, followed by an extensive survey in 1976-77 comparing the Buccaneer Oil Field area with adjacent undeveloped or control areas. In 1977-78, investigations were intensified within Buccaneer Oil Field, comparing conditions around production platforms, which release various effluents including produced brine, with those around satellite structures (well jackets) which release no effluents. Third-year studies around Buccaneer Oil Field structures are focusing on (1) determining concentrations and effects of pollutants in major components of the marine ecosystem, including seawater, surficial sediments, suspended particulate matter, fouling community, bacterial community, and fish and macro-crustaceans, (2) effects of circulation dynamics and hydrography on distribution of pollutants, and (3) mathematical modeling to describe and predict sources, fate and effects of pollutants. This project has provided a unique opportunity for continued study of effects of chronic, low-level contamination of the marine ecosystem associated with oil and gas production in an established field. In many respects, it represents a pioneering effort. It has been made possible through the cooperation of government agencies, Shell Oil Company (which owns and operates the field) and various contractors including universities and private companies. It is anticipated that the results of this project will impact in a significant way on future decisions regarding operations of oil and gas fields on the OCS.


62 pages


Buccaneer Oil Field, environmental inventory, offshore oil and gas development, offshore oil and gas drilling