Oil spill modeling in the southeastern Mediterranean Sea in support of accelerated offshore oil and gas exploration
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Since the discovery of major reserves in the Israeli exclusive economic zone (EEZ) 6 years ago, exploration and drilling for natural gas and oil have proceeded at an accelerated pace. As part of the licensing procedure for drilling, an environmental impact assessment and an emergency response plan must be presented to the authorities, which include several prespecified oil spill simulations. In this study, the MEDSLIK oil spill model has been applied for this purpose. The model accounts for time-dependent advection, dispersion, and physiochemical weathering of the surface slick. It is driven by currents produced by high-resolution dynamic downscaling of ocean reanalysis data and winds extracted from global atmospheric analyses. Worst case scenarios based on 30-day well blowouts under four sets of environmental conditions were simulated for wells located at 140, 70, and 20 km off the coast of central Israel. For the well furthest from the coast, the amount of oil remaining in the surface slick always exceeds the amount deposited on the coast. For the mid-distance well, the cases were evenly split. For the well closest to the coast, coastal deposition always exceeds the oil remaining in the slick. Additional simulations with the wind switched off helped highlight the importance of the wind in evaporation of the oil and in transporting the slick toward the southeastern coast.
KeywordsOil spill modeling Eastern Mediterranean Sea Ocean circulation Offshore oil and gas exploration
We would like to thank Dr. George Zodiatis of the Cyprus Oceanographic Center for providing the oil spill model, MEDSLIK. Wind data were provided by NCEP, and the oceanographic data were provided by MyOcean (currently distributed by the COPERNICUS Marine Environment Monitoring Service). We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful and constructive comments.
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