A hypothetical oil spill in the North Sea


A hypothetical oil spill in the North Sea

Is there enough information of sufficient quality to assess the consequences of an oil spill on the North Sea? Wageningen Marine Research assessed an hypothetical oil spill scenario within 72 hours in order to subject available information to a stress test.

In the first months of the project a preliminary overview of information required for the assessment of an oil spill on the North Sea is prepared. Which model can predict the oil trajectory? And which data are required to feed this model? Ocean currents and wind speed and direction are obvious types of data that are required. But are all these data available at all, and are they of sufficient quality. In addition, information on vulnerable areas where the oil might end up is required.


After this preparation, Wageningen Marine Research was sent an unannounced scenario of an oil spill (first a rehearsal, later the final challenge), for which the impact needed to be assessed within 72 hours. This challenge revealed that it is possible to predict the trajectory of oil, using a publically available model and data. The quality of this prediction is mostly determined by the quality of the selected model and available data. Data for the assessment of the impact on nature and other spatial usage was in some cases limited by the availability and coverage of the information. This challenge was part of a larger project in which the adequacy of data was assessed based on a multitude of challenges. This project in turn was part of a larger European programme, in which the same was done for a multitude of regional seas.

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