Environmental Effects from Arctic Oil Spills

In the event of an oil spill, there are always major concerns about the severity of environmental effects. In the Arctic, this concern is even higher because of the assumption that Arctic areas are more sensitive.

Whether these areas are indeed fragile depends on many factors: how the oil behaves in varying ice concentrations, how species react to and interact with oil, their environments, and stressors as individual organisms, populations, and communities.

Assessing the environmental effects of an Arctic oil spill and deciding on the proper response technique is not straightforward and should be done on a case-by-case basis. Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (NEBA) is a process tool that formalises the evaluation of response options and compares the expected response effectiveness versus the potential environmental impacts of the oil spill, as well as impacts from response activities (vessels, aircraft, waste disposal etc.). Knowledge of the biology and ecology of the specific region is key to the application of a NEBA in a meaningful and rigorous manner.

The optimal spill response technique is defined as the one that minimises the potential adverse effect(s) of a spill on the habitat of the region and its biological resources. Responders also need to be mindful that the subsistence lifestyle in the Arctic is inextricably linked to the ecological condition of the natural resources as well as the traditional cultural practices of Arctic residents and that these issues need to be considered in parallel with the NEBA.

The output from a NEBA process (also known as Spill Impact Mitigation Analysis or SIMA) is the selection of response technique(s) that minimise the overall impacts of a potential spill on the environment, and promote the most rapid recovery and restoration of the affected area

Research Reports

The phase one comprehensive report and reference databases are housed within a ‘NEBA information and support tool’ hosted on a dedicated microsite, accessible from the programme’s website and openly available to all visitors: http://neba.arcticresponsetechnology.org.