Including impacts of particulate emissions on marine ecosystems in life cycle assessment: The case of offshore oil and gas production

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Errata

This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum: Including impacts of particulate emissions on marine ecosystems in life cycle assessment: The case of offshore oil and gas production Volume 8, Issue 1, 211, Article first published online: 18 November 2011

Abstract

Life cycle assessment is increasingly used to assess the environmental performance of fossil energy systems. Two of the dominant emissions of offshore oil and gas production to the marine environment are the discharge of produced water and drilling waste. Although environmental impacts of produced water are predominantly due to chemical stressors, a major concern regarding drilling waste discharge is the potential physical impact due to particles. At present, impact indicators for particulate emissions are not yet available in life cycle assessment. Here, we develop characterization factors for 2 distinct impacts of particulate emissions: an increased turbidity zone in the water column and physical burial of benthic communities. The characterization factor for turbidity is developed analogous to characterization factors for toxic impacts, and ranges from 1.4 PAF (potentially affected fraction) ·m3/d/kgp (kilogram particulate) for drilling mud particles discharged from the rig. The characterization factor for burial describes the volume of sediment that is impacted by particle deposition on the seafloor and equals 2.0 × 10−1 PAF· m3/d/kgp for cutting particles. This characterization factor is quantified on the basis of initial deposition layer characteristics, such as height and surface area, the initial benthic response, and the recovery rate. We assessed the relevance of including particulate emissions in an impact assessment of offshore oil and gas production. Accordingly, the total impact on the water column and on the sediment was quantified based on emission data of produced water and drilling waste for all oil and gas fields on the Norwegian continental shelf in 2008. Our results show that cutting particles contribute substantially to the total impact of offshore oil and gas production on marine sediments, with a relative contribution of 55% and 31% on the regional and global scale, respectively. In contrast, the contribution of particulate emissions to the total impact on the marine water column is of minor importance. We conclude that particles are an important stressor in marine ecosystems, particularly for marine sediment, and particulate emissions should therefore be included in a (life cycle) impact assessment of offshore oil and gas production. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2011;7:678–686. © 2011 SETAC

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