Oil spills have the potential to affect natural and human resources and their effects largely depend upon the characteristics of the spilled oil and the sensitivity of the resources at risk. Response actions aim at the reduction of the possible impacts of a spill, limiting its spreading and recovering the oil before it can cause harm. Each response technique has its intrinsic field of applicability and effectiveness, still the final judgement on which technique to apply and when to apply it requires also considerations of spill-specific and site-specific features.

Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (NEBA) is a technique that compares and balances the different response options, evaluating and weighing their positive effects and drawbacks: the ability to remove the oil, the feasibility in a specific context, the potential to cause harm to sensitive resources. When incorporated in the response planning phase, NEBA is a highly informative tool that enables different response strategies to be set in advance for representative spill scenarios, saving valuable time in the contingency phase.

This work describes the application of NEBA to a complex environment in which several offshore platforms, sealines, onshore plants and shipping activities constitute a challenge to oil spill response planners. Following the revised version of the IPIECA-IOGP Guide Practice Guideline issued in 2015, the analysis has been fully integrated into the Oil Spill Contingency Plan for the offshore and onshore activities of an Eni Subsidiary and contributes to the definition of customized oil spill response strategies for a wide range of pre-assessed scenarios. To enable the systematic application of NEBA to all the possible spill scenarios arising within the area of influence, the NEBA process has been further implemented as an IT tool that can be adjusted on a case-by-case basis, to reflect different operational settings.

The NEBA case study presented is one of the first ‘real-life’ applications of the IPIECA-IOGP Good Practice Guideline in the Oil & Gas Industry and can be seen as a pilot study that may lead the way to a systematic incorporation of NEBA into the Oil Spill Contingency Planning.

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