Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The petroleum umbrella

04.04.2005


Several companies are extracting black gold – petroleum - from the North Sea. But scientists are questioning this activity and asking if this activity has environmental consequences. By law, these companies are obliged to carry out annual analyses.



At the request of the companies, a number of researchers at the Science Faculty of the University of the Basque Country have analysed what type of contaminants are released as a result of extraction of crude oil in the North Sea and how these contaminants affect living things in this marine environment.

For this research, mussels were studied. Throughout the world, these invertebrates are often used for investigating the state of the coastline and, so, there is a lot of information on the effects generated by the contaminants. This is why, although these molluscs are not inhabitants of this marine environment, they are regularly used for analysing the environment health status at the open sea.


Network of cages

A number of cages are submerged at high sea and then are distributed around the oil platforms, normally in two opposite directions.

The first cages are positioned close to the platform, at some 500 metres for example; the next set are placed somewhat further away – at 1000 metres distance and, finally, the third group of cages are located at quite a distance – 10,000 metres from the platform.

After 4 to 6 weeks, analyses are carried out measuring biomarkers in the mussels. Biomarkers indicate the degree of response to environmental insult at cellular and molecular levels - early warning signals of the effects of pollution in the ocean.

Amongst other parameters, the mussels are analysed to determine whether they have accumulated metals or hydrocarbons, whether they are stressed, have the immune system weakened, have suffered damage in the reproductive system, abnormalities occur in subsequent generations, and so on. Nevertheless, the actual endponit of these studies is not to determine the health state of the mussels – these molluscs are used as sentinels of the situation of the marine ecosystem. Moreover, given the complexity of the ecosystem in the North Sea, herring and cod fish have also been used in the research.

Umbrella effect

According to the results obtained from the measurements, it is still too early to determine the effect of the platforms on the mussels. Nevertheless, the researchers have been able to demonstrate that those mussels installed close to the platforms are hardly affected and, in fact, the influence of the oil platform is more noticeable at a certain distance. This means that the pollutants discharged during the crude oil extraction are dispersed from deep waters in the form of an open and inverted umbrella.

But that is not all. Frequently, the cages installed on one side of the oil platform do not register the same effects than those on the other side, although they are located at the same distance from the rig. This might due to the fact that the currents displace the “umbrella” from the platform axis at the ocean bottom.

Anyway, the investigators say the research has to be confirmed in order to draw definitive conclusions. Above all, further parameters have to be taken into account and monitoring over a longer period of time has to be undertaken. Furthermore, the North Sea is not the easiest zone for this study given the fact that the high seas make the work of the scientists difficult.

Garazi Andonegi | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ehu.es
http://www.elhuyar.com

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>