The industrialization of the deep sea is expanding worldwide. Increasing oil and gas exploration activities in the absence of sufficient baseline data in deep-sea ecosystems has made environmental management challenging. Here, we review the types of activities that are associated with global offshore oil and gas development in water depths over 200 m, the typical impacts of these activities, some of the more extreme impacts of accidental oil and gas releases, and the current state of management in the major regions of offshore industrial activity including 18 exclusive economic zones. Direct impacts of infrastructure installation, including sediment resuspension and burial by seafloor anchors and pipelines, are typically restricted to a radius of ~100 m on from the installation on the seafloor. Discharges of water-based and low-toxicity oil-based drilling muds and produced water can extend over 2 km, while the ecological impacts at the population and community levels on the seafloor are most commonly on the order of 200–300 m from their source. These impacts may persist in the deep sea for many years and likely longer for its more fragile ecosystems, such as cold-water corals. This synthesis of information provides the basis for a series of recommendations for the management of offshore oil and gas development. An effective management strategy, aimed at minimizing risk of significant environmental harm, will typically encompass regulations of the activity itself (e.g., discharge practices, materials used), combined with spatial (e.g., avoidance rules and marine protected areas), and temporal measures (e.g., restricted activities during peak reproductive periods). Spatial management measures that encompass representatives of all of the regional deep-sea community types is important in this context. Implementation of these management strategies should consider minimum buffer zones to displace industrial activity beyond the range of typical impacts: at least 2 km from any discharge points and surface infrastructure and 200 m from seafloor infrastructure with no expected discharges. Although managing natural resources is, arguably, more challenging in deep-water environments, inclusion of these proven conservation tools contributes to robust environmental management strategies for oil and gas extraction in the deep sea.
Coastal and Offshore Energy
Over the next decades, tidal stream energy aims to become a fully commercially viable energy source. For this purpose, complete knowledge regarding tidal stream resource assessment is essential. In this context, the International Electrotechnical Commission has developed a technical standard for the assessment of the tidal stream resource, “IEC 62600-201 TS: Marine energy - Wave, tidal and other water current converters - Part 201: Tidal energy resource assessment and characterisation”, offering a vast set of recommendations in the fields of data collection, numerical modelling, data analysis and reporting of the results with the purpose of standardising tidal stream resource characterisation. The standard divides resource assessments into two different classes: feasibility and layout design. The model setup procedure (mesh resolution, boundary conditions) and the computational effort required vary significantly from one class to another. For these reasons, the objective of the present work is to explore the proposed standard using the Orkney Region (N Scotland) as a case study. Overall, it was found that the standard works well, offering a detailed characterisation of the tidal resource; however, in order to improve its manageability, some aspects related to the grid resolution requirements and the approach to model a tidal energy converter could be revisited for future editions.
This work presents a new methodology for the medium to long-term stochastic forecasting of the main variables and indexes related to the wave climate that are involved in the decision-making process to allocate, operate and maintain individual nearshore wave energy converters (WECs) and/or wave farms. Compared to the state-of-the-art approaches, this methodology includes the assessment of the uncertainty by means of Monte Carlo simulations, constituting a valuable step forward. The methodology is based on the simulation of Ny-year time series of wave climate variables that maintain the same statistical descriptors and seasonal and year-to-years variations of a hindcasted time series. This step is repeated Ne times to provide a sample size large enough to assess the uncertainty of the predictions. Because the wave energy resource is obtained from the nearshore, a large amount of wave propagations would be required. However, our methodology incorporates downscaling techniques that significantly improve the computational efficiency, and only a reduced number of Nw sea states should be propagated using an advanced numerical model. The methodology was applied to Playa Granada beach (southern Spain), obtaining the wave energy resource at 24 locations in the nearshore for 25-year time series repeated 1000 times. The selection of the most promising location for WECs on the basis of hindcasted or forecasted data provides different results. This highlights the importance of the proposed methodology for the advanced planning and design of any prospective energy extraction project.
- As part of global efforts to reduce dependence on carbon-based energy sources there has been a rapid increase in the installation of renewable energy devices. The installation and operation of these devices can result in conflicts with wildlife. In the marine environment, mammals may avoid wind farms that are under construction or operating. Such avoidance may lead to more time spent travelling or displacement from key habitats. A paucity of data on at-sea movements of marine mammals around wind farms limits our understanding of the nature of their potential impacts.
- Here, we present the results of a telemetry study on harbour seals Phoca vitulina in The Wash, south-east England, an area where wind farms are being constructed using impact pile driving. We investigated whether seals avoid wind farms during operation, construction in its entirety, or during piling activity. The study was carried out using historical telemetry data collected prior to any wind farm development and telemetry data collected in 2012 during the construction of one wind farm and the operation of another.
- Within an operational wind farm, there was a close-to-significant increase in seal usage compared to prior to wind farm development. However, the wind farm was at the edge of a large area of increased usage, so the presence of the wind farm was unlikely to be the cause.
- There was no significant displacement during construction as a whole. However, during piling, seal usage (abundance) was significantly reduced up to 25 km from the piling activity; within 25 km of the centre of the wind farm, there was a 19 to 83% (95% confidence intervals) decrease in usage compared to during breaks in piling, equating to a mean estimated displacement of 440 individuals. This amounts to significant displacement starting from predicted received levels of between 166 and 178 dB re 1 μPa(p-p). Displacement was limited to piling activity; within 2 h of cessation of pile driving, seals were distributed as per the non-piling scenario.
- Synthesis and applications. Our spatial and temporal quantification of avoidance of wind farms by harbour seals is critical to reduce uncertainty and increase robustness in environmental impact assessments of future developments. Specifically, the results will allow policymakers to produce industry guidance on the likelihood of displacement of seals in response to pile driving; the relationship between sound levels and avoidance rates; and the duration of any avoidance, thus allowing far more accurate environmental assessments to be carried out during the consenting process. Further, our results can be used to inform mitigation strategies in terms of both the sound levels likely to cause displacement and what temporal patterns of piling would minimize the magnitude of the energetic impacts of displacement.
Arrays of tidal energy converters have the potential to provide clean renewable energy for future generations. Benthic communities may, however, be affected by changes in current speeds resulting from arrays of tidal converters located in areas characterised by strong currents. Current speed, together with bottom type and depth, strongly influence benthic community distributions; however the interaction of these factors in controlling benthic dynamics in high energy environments is poorly understood. The Strangford Lough Narrows, the location of SeaGen, the world’s first single full-scale, grid-compliant tidal energy extractor, is characterised by spatially heterogenous high current flows. A hydrodynamic model was used to select a range of benthic community study sites that had median flow velocities between 1.5–2.4 m/s in a depth range of 25–30 m. 25 sites were sampled for macrobenthic community structure using drop down video survey to test the sensitivity of the distribution of benthic communities to changes in the flow field. A diverse range of species were recorded which were consistent with those for high current flow environments and corresponding to very tide-swept faunal communities in the EUNIS classification. However, over the velocity range investigated, no changes in benthic communities were observed. This suggested that the high physical disturbance associated with the high current flows in the Strangford Narrows reflected the opportunistic nature of the benthic species present with individuals being continuously and randomly affected by turbulent forces and physical damage. It is concluded that during operation, the removal of energy by marine tidal energy arrays in the far-field is unlikely to have a significant effect on benthic communities in high flow environments. The results are of major significance to developers and regulators in the tidal energy industry when considering the environmental impacts for site licences.
This study presents an assessment of the potential for harvesting wind and wave energy from the Red Sea based on an 18-year high-resolution regional atmospheric reanalysis recently generated using the Advanced Weather Research Forecasting model. This model was initialized with ERA-Interim global data and the Red Sea reanalysis was generated using a cyclic three-dimensional variational approach assimilating available data in the region. The wave hindcast was generated using WAVEWATCH III on a 5-km resolution grid, forced by the Red Sea reanalysis surface winds. The wind and wave products were validated against data from buoys, scatterometers and altimeters. Our analysis suggests that the distribution of wind and wave energy in the Red Sea is inhomogeneous and is concentrated in specific areas, characterized by various meteorological conditions including weather fronts, mesoscale vortices, land and sea breezes and mountain jets. A detailed analysis of wind and wave energy variation was performed at three hotspots representing the northern, central and southern parts of the Red Sea. Although there are potential sites for harvesting wind energy from the Red Sea, there are no potential sites for harvesting wave energy because wave energy in the Red Sea is not strong enough for currently available wave energy converters. Wave energy should not be completely ignored, however, at least from the perspective of hybrid wind-wave projects.
Offshore wind energy development is considered essential to meet European targets for CO2 emissions reduction. However, offshore wind farms face not only typical risks associated with emerging technologies, but much higher uncertainties arising from various technical, political, economic and regulatory risks, most of which have been aggravated during the recent economic crisis. This is especially true in Greece where despite the investors’ interest there is no progress in the realisation of offshore wind farms. The scope of this paper is to investigate the profitability range of offshore wind energy investments in Greece, taking into consideration the uncertainties faced. To this purpose, a systematic profitability analysis is performed in twelve offshore wind projects, using a Monte Carlo simulation integrated into a classical financial model for the treatment of various sources of uncertainty and in relation to the eventual variation of feed-in tariffs, as foreseen in the current legislative framework. The proposed methodological approach has proved to be a very useful tool for policy makers, enabling the simultaneous consideration of a significant number of uncertainty drivers. Moreover, the obtained results demonstrate the difficulties to propose a common feed-in tariff level for all offshore wind farms even in a small country like Greece.
Successful deployment of tidal energy converters relies on access to accurate and high resolution numerical assessments of available tidal stream power. However, since suitable tidal stream sites are located in relatively shallow waters of the continental shelf where tidal currents are enhanced, tidal energy converters may experience effects of wind-generated surface-gravity waves. Waves may thus influence tidal currents, and associated kinetic energy, through two non-linear processes: the interaction of wave and current bottom boundary layers, and the generation of wave-induced currents. Here, we develop a three-dimensional tidal circulation model coupled with a phase-averaged wave model to quantify the impact of the waves on the tidal kinetic energy resource of the Fromveur Strait (western Brittany) - a region that has been identified with strong potential for tidal array development. Numerical results are compared with in situ observations of wave parameters (significant wave height, peak period and mean wave direction) and current amplitude and direction 10 m above the seabed (the assumed technology hub height for this region). The introduction of waves is found to improve predictions of tidal stream power at 10 m above the seabed at the measurement site in the Strait, reducing kinetic energy by up to 9% during storm conditions. Synoptic effects of wave radiation stresses and enhanced bottom friction are more specifically identified at the scale of the Strait. Waves contribute to a slight increase in the spatial gradient of available mean tidal stream potential between the north-western area and the south-eastern part of the Strait. At the scale of the region within the Strait that has been identified for tidal stream array development, the available mean spring tidal stream potential is furthermore reduced by 12% during extreme waves conditions. Isolated effects of wave radiation stresses and enhanced bottom friction lead to a reduction in spring tidal potential of 7.8% and 5.3%, respectively. It is therefore suggested that models used for tidal resource assessment consider the effect of waves in appropriately wave-exposed regions.
This paper presents a new approach for optimising the design of tidal stream turbine farms. In this approach, the turbine farm is represented by a turbine density function that specifies the number of turbines per unit area and an associated continuous locally-enhanced bottom friction field. The farm design question is formulated as a mathematical optimisation problem constrained by the shallow water equations and solved with efficient, gradient-based optimisation methods. The resulting method is accurate, computationally efficient, allows complex installation constraints, and supports different goal quantities such as to maximise power or profit. The outputs of the optimisation are the optimal number of turbines, their location within the farm, the overall farm profit, the farm's power extraction, and the installation cost.
We demonstrate the capabilities of the method on a validated numerical model of the Pentland Firth, Scotland. We optimise the design of four tidal farms simultaneously, as well as individually, and study how farms in close proximity may impact upon one another.
As part of the energy transition, the French government is planning the construction of three offshore wind farms in Normandy (Bay of Seine and eastern part of the English Channel, north-western France) in the next years. These offshore wind farms will be integrated into an ecosystem already facing multiple anthropogenic disturbances such as maritime transport, fisheries, oyster and mussel farming, and sediment dredging. Currently no integrated, ecosystem-based study on the effects of the construction and exploitation of offshore wind farms exists, where biological approaches generally focused on the conservation of some valuable species or groups of species. Complementary trophic web modelling tools were applied to the Bay of Seine ecosystem (to the 50 km2 area covered by the wind farm) to analyse the potential impacts of benthos and fish aggregation caused by the introduction of additional hard substrates from the piles and the turbine scour protections. An Ecopath ecosystem model composed of 37 compartments, from phytoplankton to seabirds, was built to describe the situation “before” the construction of the wind farm. Then, an Ecosim projection over 30 years was performed after increasing the biomass of targeted benthic and fish compartments. Ecological Network Analysis (ENA) indices were calculated for the two periods, “before” and “after”, to compare network functioning and the overall structural properties of the food web. Our main results showed (1) that the total ecosystem activity, the overall system omnivory (proportion of generalist feeders), and the recycling increased after the construction of the wind farm; (2) that higher trophic levels such as piscivorous fish species, marine mammals, and seabirds responded positively to the aggregation of biomass on piles and turbine scour protections; and (3) a change in keystone groups after the construction towards more structuring and dominant compartments. Nonetheless, these changes could be considered as limited impacts of the wind farm installation on this coastal trophic web structure and functioning.