Oil & Natural Gas Projects
Exploration and Production Technologies
Ecological Assessments for Upstream Petroleum Sites
The project was funded through DOE's Natural Gas and Oil Technology Partnership
(NGOTP) program. The program establishes alliances that combine the resources
and experience of the Nation's petroleum industry with the capabilities of the
National Laboratories to expedite research, development, and demonstration of
advanced technologies for proved natural gas and oil recovery.
The project goal is to provide research data for Petroleum Environmental Research
Forum (PERF) projects relating to the development of ecological risk evaluation
(ERA) techniques at the population, community, or ecosystem level for upstream
exploration and production sites. This includes supporting the development of
early exit criteria for E&P sites, demonstrating that existing clean-up
levels are protective of ecological receptors, and collecting and analyzing
field data from existing E&P sites, as necessary.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Oak Ridge, TN
LLNL participated in a multi-disciplinary team consisting of industry, government,
National Laboratories, and private consulting firms to develop ecological assessment
techniques for upstream E&P sites that are protective of ecological receptors
at the population, community, or ecosystem level.
Work described here is designed to compliment research being conducted under
FEW0067/FEAC321 by LLNL and ORNL through NGOTP. That research was specifically
designed to investigate the role of size and spatial distribution of small impacted
or contaminated sites to the larger ecosystem or landscape.
The work performed includes: 1) participation in all scoping and project meetings
with industrial and National Laboratory partners as necessary; 2) general PERF
support to industrial partners, including preparation and presentation of symposia
papers and discussion papers on potential new research topics; 3) participation
in E&P site visits, site selection, and ecological endpoint selection; 4)
development of techniques to construct general conceptual ecological models
of E&P sites; 5) review of the relevant conservation biology literature;
6) review of existing E&P site data; 7) collection of additional site data
as required; 8) general project management and review of the geographical information
systems (GIS) design, database design, modeling design, and modeling results;
and 9) overall project reporting.
The interactive website developed as part of the project provides data on the
range of population, plus a list of vegetation types present, sorted by area.
The ability to identify and eliminate permit requirements sites that do not
have significant environmental problems would greatly improve the process of
permitting and reduce the costs. High-speed data processing of field data provides
cost-effective project management.
This project is designed to support the basic and applied research needs of
projects conducted by the industry consortium PERF relating to ERAs at upstream
The petroleum and natural gas industry is concerned that the industry will
come under increased regulatory scrutiny concerning ecological impacts at upland
E&P sites (wellheads, tank batteries, metering stations, gas plants, etc.).
Conducting ERAs at each of the thousands of E&P sites would place a huge
financial burden on the industry, which could impact their competitiveness and
ultimately would be felt by consumers. However, protecting natural ecological
resources is also clearly in the best interest of the country. Developing methodologies
and techniques to screen out truly ecologically innocuous sites-while identifying
those sites where ecological impact is significant-is an important effort. This
project has direct application to PERF-99-01 (Ecological Evaluations of Upstream
Sites) and potential application to PERF-99-13 (Expanding the Science Basis
LLNL actively contributed to the finalization of objectives for PERF-99-01:
- Developing ecological approaches to determine ecological risk at upstream
- Developing exclusion criteria for spill release sites based on size of spill
- Validating the current guidelines for total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs)
in soil as protective of ecological receptors.
The Tall Grass Prairie Preserve (TGPP) in Oklahoma was selected for a study
site for the development of ecological assessment protocols. At the request
of DOE through industry partners (American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, and
ExxonMobil), LLNL developed a unique research plan to evaluate the current TPH-in-soil
guidelines. This research focused on evaluating the ecological recovery from
TPH releases by collecting specific vegetation and small-mammal data from multiple
historic spill sites.
Development was completed of a protocol for developing conceptual trophic models
at large E&P sites, using the TGPP as an example site. This protocol will
be extremely useful to E&P site managers by allowing them to efficiently
and cost-effectively organize data on the species known or thought to occur
at their site in a manner that will be useful for future ERAs. LNLL completed
a review of the fragmentation, home range, and critical patch size literature
to determine what this literature may reveal with respect to developing an exclusion
criteria based on size. A working summary data table and a working model summary
document were developed from this review. From the LNLL review, it was concluded
that size criteria will be constrained by the general context of the facility
and by the general type of endpoint species present.
LNLL participated in the collection of additional onsite GPS data at the TGPP
of well location, well pad area, and brine and oil spill locations and size.
Researchers reviewed the preliminary site statistics and the spatial modeling
plan developed under FEW0067/FEAC321. A draft manuscript has been completed
of the review of the conservation biology literature with respect to the development
of spill-size exclusion criteria. Removal of habitat area as a consequence of
a release of petroleum products to the environment can be considered a form
of habitat fragmentation. However, as pointed out in the conservation biology
literature, habitat fragmentation typically results in small areas of intact
habitat within a hostile matrix of unsuitable area. However, small, isolated
spills at large E&P sites result in small areas of unsuitable habitat within
a matrix of intact habitat. A summary of knowledge was completed that determined
what was known about home range and critical patch size requirements and compared
these spatial needs to example spill sizes at the TGPP. In addition, the available
population models for evaluating spatial need in more detail were explored.
It was concluded that home range and critical patch size can be used as a gross,
first-cut indicator of potential ecological impact as a consequence of habitat
loss due to spills, but these conclusions should at least initially be substantiated
using simulation modeling. LLNL has begun rebuilding the website using Active
Server Pages (ASP) and ArcIMS, which will add features needed for development
of a population model interface. By using ASP, the website now can interact
directly with other ActiveX(COM) applications at the server end. This opens
up high-speed queries into relational database management systems (RDBMS) on
the server. The data-based website will be used to run the population models
being developed by LLNL and ORNL under FEW0067/FEAC321. Development of an ActiveX.dll
will allow complex GIS functionality to be initiated directly from the website.
The data can provide the range of population, plus a list of vegetation types
present, sorted by area.
Current Status (October 2005)
The project is completed.
Project Start: July 15, 1999
Project End: July 14, 2004
Anticipated DOE Contribution: $400,000
Performer Contribution: $0
Other Government Organizations Involved
NETL - Jesse Garcia (Jesse.Garcia@netl.doe.gov or 918-699-2036)
LLNL - Tina Carlsen (email@example.com or 925-422-7103)
The Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in Osage County, OK.
Oklahoma's Tall Grass Prairie Preserve was selected to serve as the site for
a National Laboratory study designed to provide data for Petroleum Environmental
Research Forum projects relating to the development of ecological risk evaluation.