Once oil has been spilled, urgent decisions need to be made concerning response options, so that environmental impacts are kept to the minimum. Options for protection of shorelines include containment and recovery, in-situ burning, use of dispersants or just leaving the oil to dissipate and degrade naturally. All response options have both limitations and benefits which need to be compared with each other. This process is known as Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (NEBA).
A NEBA for protection of coastal areas in the Russian part of the Barents Sea and the White Sea was performed by Ramboll in the framework of the UNEP/GEF project "Improvement of the emergency oil spill response system under the Arctic conditions for protection of sensitive coastal areas (case study: the Barents and the White seas)". The analysis was based on the results from modeling of spills of oil and oil products which are transported through the Barents and the White seas, oil spill sensitivity mapping as well as assessment of available oil spill response (OSR) resources in the region.
The analysis shows that coastline protection methods such as using dispersants or in-situ burning lack methodological and regulatory framework and at the moment they cannot be used in the Russian part of the Barents Sea and the White Sea. The optimal available technique in case of a spill of fuel oil or crude oil will be mechanical containment and recovery (use of booms and skimmers). However, mechanical methods will be both inefficient and extremely hazardous to combat spills of gas condensate or naphtha due to high explosion and fire risk until full evaporation of the volatile fractions has taken place. In such a case it is recommended to observe the slicks and await natural dissipation.
Challenging logistics in the region and harsh climatic conditions can significantly impede timely response to offshore oil spills and use of traditional mechanical recovery that creates need for adapting alternative tactics such as in-situ burning and dispersants.