ABSTRACT:

It is an important challenge for the petroleum industry to avoid negative environmental impacts from discharges to the sea. A consequence for the industry is to establish tools to monitor biological effects in organisms within an influence area. An approach which is analogous to human health diagnostics, has been adopted to establish the adequate monitoring tools. It is based on biomarkers, which are signal responses to contaminants measured in individual organisms. Similar to human health biomarkers, they provide early warning signals and they have relevance in assessment of harmfulness of the contaminants. Thus, the biomarkers fulfil requirements related to precautionary and zero harmful effect approaches. In the BioSea Joint Industry Project it is established a basis for selection of biomarkers of relevance to hydrocarbon discharges in different kinds of marine organisms (fish, crustaceans, molluscs, echinoderms). Through a series of laboratory experiments the biomarker responses are compared to hydrocarbon concentrations in water and the fitness of the animals (e.g. reproductive output). This allows interpretation of critical and non-critical signal values, which is essential in practical field monitoring. The methods have been field validated in the North Sea. Background field levels have been measured in Arctic and in deep sea sampled organisms to prepare application in these environments. Comparative exposures to assess the applicability at temperate and arctic conditions have been carried out in the laboratory. The preliminary general conclusions are that the biomarker approach presently can be regarded as operative, and it seems applicable in different geographical areas, such as the Mediterranean Sea, provided the biomarker signals are calibrated to known conditions

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