Increasing global energy demands have led to the ongoing intensification of hydrocarbon extraction from marine areas. Hydrocarbon extractive activities pose threats to native marine biodiversity, such as noise, light, and chemical pollution, physical changes to the sea floor, invasive species, and greenhouse gas emissions. Here, we assessed at a global scale the spatial overlap between offshore hydrocarbon activities and marine biodiversity (>25,000 species, nine major ecosystems, and marine protected areas), and quantify the changes over time. We discovered that two‐thirds of global offshore hydrocarbon activities occur in areas within the top 10% for species richness, range rarity, and proportional range rarity values globally. Thus, while hydrocarbon activities are undertaken in less than one percent of the ocean's area, they overlap with approximately 85% of all assessed species. Of conservation concern, 4% of species with the largest proportion of their range overlapping hydrocarbon activities are range restricted, potentially increasing their vulnerability to localized threats such as oil spills. While hydrocarbon activities have extended to greater depths since the mid‐1990s, we found that the largest overlap is with coastal ecosystems, particularly estuaries, saltmarshes, and mangroves. Furthermore, in most countries where offshore hydrocarbon exploration licensing blocks have been delineated, they do not overlap with marine protected areas (MPAs). Although this is positive in principle, many countries have far more licensing block areas than protected areas, and in some instances, MPA coverage is minimal. These findings suggest the need for marine spatial prioritisation to help limit future spatial overlap between marine conservation priorities and hydrocarbon activities. Such prioritisation can be informed by the spatial and quantitative baseline information provided here. In increasingly shared seascapes, prioritising management actions that set both conservation and development targets could help minimize further declines of biodiversity and environmental changes at a global scale.
Coastal and Offshore Energy
Climate change is poised to exacerbate coastal erosion. Recent research has presented a novel strategy to tackle this issue: dual wave farms, i.e., arrays of wave energy converters with the dual function of carbon-free energy generation and coastal erosion mitigation. However, the implications of sea level rise – another consequence of climate change – for the effectiveness of wave farms as coastal defence elements against shoreline erosion have not been studied so far. The objective of this work is to investigate how the coastal defence performance of a dual wave farm is affected by sea level rise through a case study (Playa Granada, southern Iberian Peninsula). To this end, a spectral wave propagation model, a longshore sediment transport formulation and a one-line model are combined to obtain the final subaerial beach areas for three sea level rise scenarios: the present situation, an optimistic and a pessimistic projection. These scenarios were modelled with and without the wave farm to assess its effects. We find that the dual wave farm reduces erosion and promotes accretion regardless of the sea level rise scenario considered. In the case of westerly storms, the dual wave farm is particularly effective: erosion is transformed into accretion. In general, and importantly, sea level rise strengthens the effectiveness of the dual wave farm as a coastal protection mechanism. This fact enhances the competitiveness of wave farms as coastal defence elements.
Demand for renewable energy is increasing steadily and regulated by national and international policies. Offshore wind energy sector has been clearly the fastest in its development among other options, and development of new wind farms requires large ocean space. Therefore, there is a need of efficient spatial planning process, including the site selection constrained by technical (wind resource, coastal distance, seafloor) and environmental (impacts) factors and competence of uses. We present a novel approach, using Bayesian Belief Networks (BBN), for an integrated spatially explicit site feasibility identification for offshore wind farms. Our objectives are to: (i) develop a spatially explicit model that integrates the technical, economic, environmental and social dimensions; (ii) operationalize the BBN model; (iii) implement the model at local (Basque Country) and regional (North East Atlantic and Western Mediterranean), and (iv) develop and analyse future scenarios for wind farm installation in a local case study. Results demonstrated a total of 1% (23 km2) of moderate feasibility areas in local scaled analysis, compared to 4% of (21,600 km2) very high, and 5% (30,000 km2) of high feasibility in larger scale analysis. The main challenges were data availability and discretization when trying to expand the model from local to regional level. The use of BBN models to determine the feasibility of offshore wind farm areas has been demonstrated adequate and possible, both at local and regional scales, allowing managers to take management decisions regarding marine spatial planning when including different activities, environmental problems and technological constraints.
The objective of this study is to analyse, from a legal point of view, the influence of the transposition of Marine Spatial Planning Directive into both Spanish and Portuguese domestic laws on the development of marine renewable energies in both countries. This article concludes that the Portuguese legal system is more favourable for the development of marine renewable energies than the Spanish legal regime, since the former establishes a more flexible planning system, sets criteria for the prioritisation of marine uses, incorporates trade-off mechanisms, introduces an electronic single-window system and regulates a pilot zone. These measures can help streamline licensing processes, avoid and resolve conflicts with other sea users, and adapt planning instruments to the rapid development of new marine renewable technologies. However, both legal regimes lack specific legal mechanisms aimed at offering effective protection of the marine environment against negative effects arising from the installation of such devices. Similarly, there is a lack of coordination between maritime spatial planning instruments and land planning instruments, and between the Central Government and the autonomous regions. This may hinder the installation of marine renewable energies. This study has implications in relation to the EU integrated marine policy aimed at achieving a balance between blue growth and the conservation of the marine environment, as well as an inter-administrative coordination improvement in decision-making.
The offshore renewable energy sector has challenging requirements related to the physical simulation of the ocean environment for the purpose of evaluating energy generating technologies. In this paper the demands of the wave and tidal energy sectors are considered, with measurement and characterisation of the environment explored and replication of these conditions described. This review examines the process of advanced ocean environment replication from the sea to the tank, and rather than an exhaustive overview of all approaches it follows the rationale behind projects led, or strongly connected to, the late Professor Ian Bryden. This gives an element of commonality to the motivations behind marine data acquisition programmes and the facilities constructed to take advantage of the resulting datasets and findings. This review presents a decade of flagship research, conducted in the United Kingdom, at the interfaces between physical oceanography, engineering simulation tools and industrial applications in the area of offshore renewable energy. Wave and tidal datasets are presented, with particular emphasis on the novel tidal measurement techniques developed for tidal energy characterisation in the Fall of Warness, Orkney, UK. Non-parametric wave spectra characterisation methodologies are applied to the European Marine Energy Centre's (EMEC) Billia Croo wave test site, giving complex and highly realistic site-specific directional inputs for simulation of wave energy sites and converters. Finally, the processes of recreating the resulting wave, tidal, and combined wave-current conditions in the FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility are presented. The common motivations across measurement, characterisation, and test tank are discussed with conclusions drawn on the strengths, gaps and challenges associated with detailed site replication.
Quality of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) has been criticized, in part due to a lack of accounting in these tools for differing spatial and temporal scales inherent in ecological data. In the United States, leases of outer continental shelf blocks for offshore wind projects and their construction and operation plans require EIAs in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the 1978 Council on Environmental QualityRegulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act. This study evaluated consideration of spatiotemporal scales of stressors, receptors (specifically cetaceans), and effects in eight federal offshore wind energy EIAs against 26 criteria extracted from federal regulations. The criteria analysis determined that EIAs do not consistently or comprehensively address spatiotemporal scales with respect to federal requirements. Deficiencies in addressing spatiotemporal scales may result from imprecise regulations, intent to simplify encyclopedic documents, or lack of data resulting in incomplete assessments, inappropriate mitigation actions, and projects delays. Recommendations to improve compliance with federal regulations include making federal guidance binding, focusing on non-trivial impacts of species, tiering information, and incorporating outcomes of marine spatial planning.
Offshore wind is gaining momentum in the United States as a viable source for meeting domestic energy needs. Although offshore wind farms have been developed in Europe and Asia, the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) is the first offshore wind farm built in North America. To improve marine resource management, it is critical to understand the impacts of the wind farm on marine resource users in context. Little is known about the impacts of offshore wind farms on marine resource users in the United States. This study investigates recreational and commercial fishers' perceptions of the impacts of the BIWF on the local marine ecosystem. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 25 fishers, mostly based out of Block Island or Point Judith, Rhode Island (US), in the summer and fall of 2017. During the interviews, fishers were asked about their perceptions of changes in the marine ecology of the wind farm area during and after the offshore wind turbines were constructed, and how their activities in the area have changed since the wind farm was installed. Results indicate that there were perceived impacts of the BIWF on the local ecosystem and the behavior of the marine resource users. For some recreational fishers, the wind farm functioned as a destination or target and served as an artificial reef for spearfishing. For some commercial fishers, the increase in recreational fishing due to the establishment of the BIWF crowded out commercial fishers in these areas. As the offshore wind farm industry expands within US waters, findings from this study and others like it can provide valuable insights on the potential impacts of these wind farms on marine resource users.
Tidal lagoons are presented as an environmentally friendly alternative to tidal barrages. This does not mean that their environmental impacts can be overlooked. A UK government review recommended a pilot scheme lagoon go ahead, with careful environmental monitoring. Despite recent government rejection of a lagoon scheme, it is still more important than ever to consider environmental solution options for any future lagoon developments. There are no operating lagoons in the world and so their environmental impacts are not fully understood. However, there is a vast quantity of literature available from other industries addressing similar impacts in the coastal, ocean and river environments. This systematic review follows the PRISMA and CEE guidance. Using this methodology the available literature covering relevant solution options from other industries that could be applied to future lagoon developments was quantified. This presents an investigation into solution options only, giving a quantitative analysis of what resources are available, how this compares to industry understanding, where the expertise lies globally, what impacts are being addressed and how applicable the solutions are for lagoon application. This paper analyses the extent and relevance of this available research on solutions as a resource for the nascent lagoon industry. Over half of the solutions found in this review require only small shifts in development for them to be realistic solution options for the lagoon industry in the future. This review opens the door on a vast and valuable resource and justifies the need for further investigation into solutions for the lagoon industry.
Seabirds select suitable habitats at sea, but these habitats may be strongly impacted by marine spatial planning, including the construction of offshore wind farms (OWFs) and the associated ship traffic. Loons (Gavia spp.) are particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic activities and are also of high conservation status, making them particularly relevant to marine planning processes. We investigated the effects of OWF construction and ship traffic on Loon distributions in the German North Sea on a large spatial scale, using a ‘before–after’ control impact analysis approach and a long-term data set. Many OWFs were built in or close to core areas of Loon distributions. Loons showed significant shifts in their distribution in the ‘after’ period and subsequently aggregated between two OWF clusters, indicating the remaining suitable habitat. The decrease in Loon abundance became significant as far as about 16 km from the closest OWF. Ship traffic also had a significant negative impact on Loons, indicating that OWFs deterred Loons through the combined effect of ship traffic and the wind turbines themselves. This study provides the first analysis of the extensive effects of OWFs and ships on Loons on a large spatial scale. The results provide an essential baseline for future marine spatial planning processes in the German North Sea and elsewhere.
The number of fixed oil and gas platforms are declining in the Gulf of Mexico, there were ∼3674 platforms installed the since 1942 and today there are ∼1320. Eventually, ∼30,000 jobs will be lost in related industries because of platform removals. Retired oil and gas platforms could be redeployed for alternate uses such as CO2 capture and storage, renewable wind energy, and sustainable fisheries and employ citizens in coastal areas. Elsewhere around the world, offshore platforms are used for purposes other than producing oil and gas. U.S. Federal legislation (Energy Policy Act 2005 Section 388 of Public Law [PL] 109-58); 30 CFR 285.1000 Subpart J) authorizes the use of retired oil and gas platforms for alternate uses. If the retired oil and gas structures are preserved, the infrastructure could also be used to recover stranded petroleum using CO2 enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR). We examined the socio-economic incentives, environmental impacts, and regulatory issues associated with the alternate uses. We suggest that CO2-EOR is the most economically efficient way to store CO2 offshore and that offshore wind turbines may assist with the energy requirements for oil and gas production and CO2-EOR. Data suggest that in our study area offshore platforms are more successful at producing fish and invertebrates if they are left standing instead of toppled over. The greatest regulatory issue facing the use of retired platforms is the transfer of liability. If the structures are redeployed, the previous oil and gas owner/operators are still responsible for eventual removal and catastrophic events. A variety of future economic activity in the Gulf of Mexico could take advantage of this infrastructure, if it remains in place.