Environmental Monitoring/ Sampling in the Marine Environment
Submitting InstitutionRobert Gordon University
Unit of AssessmentGeneral Engineering
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Chemical Sciences: Analytical Chemistry, Other Chemical Sciences
Engineering: Environmental Engineering
Summary of the impact
This impact study deals with the development and implementation of an
statistically-based sampling regime for marine sediment hydrocarbon
contamination. Its Economic
and Environmental impacts include a reduction in sampling and analysis
costs to operators while
maintaining a statistically robust monitoring procedure to protect and
enhance the environment
(including valuable fisheries) and support oil and gas
exploration/production. This regime was
initially adopted by the UK Government in the UK Marine Monitoring and
Assessment Strategy in
2009. These statistical-based sampling protocols have subsequently passed
environmental policy and the Random Stratified Statistical Sampling Regime
accepted standard for marine monitoring in the £22 billion oil exploration
and production industry in
the UK Continental Shelf. This regime has now been taken-up
internationally by the other 14
countries bordering/discharging to the North East Atlantic through the
OSPAR Convention for the
Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic.
Based on knowledge obtained from research since 1998 a range of novel
and statistical methods have been developed to improve assessment of
hydrocarbons and other
contaminants in the marine environment. The underpinning research was lead
jointly by Pollard at
the Robert Gordon University and Moffat at the Marine Scotland Science
Marine Laboratory in
Aberdeen. Experimental research was carried out at both the Robert Gordon
Marine Laboratory, and included access to sampling using the Marine
Laboratory's coastal and
ocean-going research vessels.
Sampling and monitoring of human activities on marine habitats in oil and
gas fields is complex.
Money, time and very substantial resources are involved in monitoring, in
part due to the
considerable cost of a ship capable of sampling in such waters and in
proximity to oil and gas
installations. This underpinning research developed measuring methods,
materials (CRM's) and a robust stratified sampling regime.
a) Development of improved methods of monitoring marine contaminants
The initial research into the development of an HPLC/fluorescence method
to provide a better
method for monitoring toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was
carried out in 1998/99.
Subsequently (1999-2002) a detailed investigation to assess the
significance of the biological
effects of these PAHs in the Scottish marine environment was undertaken.
This research was
partially funded by the then Fisheries Research Services, Marine
Laboratory. This provided an
improved analytical and assessment methodology to evaluate their effects.
Joint research with Marine Scotland Science developed CRMs to enable
of PAH metabolites. Quality assurance and methodology applicable for
through the use of CRMs is a key area in biomarker development. This fed
into a 3 year multi-partner
EU Standards, Measurements and Testing project (SMT4-CT98-2250). RGU were
involved, through the Marine Laboratory, in producing two biliary PAH
metabolite CRMs. Biomarker
assessments were carried out in the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde,
Scotland. The Firth of
Forth results demonstrated a clear spatial gradient of PAH uptake and
exposure in flounder that
was not found in the conventional EROD monitoring method measured in the
same fish. This
clearly demonstrates a more effective environmental monitoring method (R1,
b) Development of an improved sampling strategy
Between 2002-2006 our research designed a robust spatial sampling
strategy that would give
representative information on hydrocarbon contamination in sediments. This
known as the Random Stratified Statistical Sampling Regime.
Results from the new Random
Stratified Statistical Sampling Regime were compared with those from the
sampling regime to investigate the effect of oil exploration and
production activity in the Fladen
Ground in the northern North Sea (R3).
The range of measurement methods used to analyse the samples for
comparison included Particle
Size, Total Organic Carbon, Fluorescence Detection, Gas
(for determination of PAHs) and Gas Chromatography-Flame Ionisation
determination of aliphatic hydrocarbons).
The novel Random Stratified Statistical Sampling design was demonstrated
to be cost and time
effective, gave much more reliable mean concentrations for all the
parameters, and produces data
with increased precision (lower variance) compared to the traditional grid
sampling design. The
increase in precision, or alternatively reductions in variance, time and
cost, obtainable through
composite random sampling, depends on the quality of the information used
to set up the design.
From 2005 to 2008 the research was extended into the development and use
of passive samplers
to monitor bioavailability of organic contaminants in sediments and risk
Pat Pollard: Lecturer, Reader, Professor (1990-)
Colin Moffat: Honorary Professor at the Robert Gordon University (2005-).
Also Head of Science,
Marine Scotland (previously Fisheries Research Services Marine Laboratory,
Linda Lawton: Lecturer, Reader, Professor (1995-)
Kyari Yates: Research Student (2004-8), James Hutton Institute North
(2008-10), Lecturer (2010-)
Abdulwaheed Ahmed: Research Student (2002- 2005)
References to the research
Key references are marked *
R1 D. M. Richardson, I. M. Davies, C. F. Moffat, P.
Pollard and R. M. Stagg, "Biliary PAH
metabolites and EROD activity on flounder from a contaminated estuarine
environment." Journal of
Environmental Monitoring, 2001, 3, 610-615. DOI: 10.1039/B106353G
R2 D. M. Richardson, M. Gubbins, I. M. Davies, C. F. Moffat
and P. Pollard, "Effects of Feeding
Status on Biliary PAH metabolite and Biliverdin concentrations in plaice",
and Pharmacology, 2004, 17, 79-85. DOI: 10.1016/j.etap.2004.03.003
*R3 A. Ahmed, L. Webster, P. Pollard, I. M. Davies, M.
Russell, P. Walsham, G. Packer and C.
Moffat, "The distribution and composition of hydrocarbons in
sediments from the Fladen ground,
North Sea, an area of oil production" Journal of Environmental
Monitoring, 2006, 8, 307-316. DOI:
R4 C. F. Moffat, L. Webster, P. Pollard, A. Ahmed,
M. Russell and I. M. Davies "Sampling
Sediments in the Marine Environment". In: F. Ruggeri, R. S. Kenett and F.
W. Faltin, Editors. The
Encyclopedia of Statistics in Quality and Reliability. J Wiley &
Sons, Chichester, UK, 2007, 1756-1761.
*R5 A. Ahmed, L. Webster, P. Pollard, I. M. Davies and C.
F. Moffat, "Description and evaluation
of a sampling system for monitoring of hydrocarbons in sediments" Journal
Monitoring, 2007, 9, 730-739. DOI: 10.1039/B701474K
R6 K. Yates, I. M. Davies, L. Webster, P. Pollard, L. Lawton
and C. F. Moffat, "Passive sampling:
Partition coefficients for a silicone rubber reference phase". Journal
of Environmental Monitoring,
2007, 9, 1116 - 1121. DOI: 10.1039/B706716J
Details of the impact
The UK continental shelf hosts significant on-going exploration and
production of oil and gas. The
UK and Scottish Governments are responsible for assessing the
environmental impact of human
activities and, where appropriate, the introduction of relevant
regulation. As such, there is a need to
undertake monitoring of marine sediments, both to assess possible impacts,
and to determine if
the regulation is delivering what it is intended to do.
A key aspect to any monitoring programme is survey design. Ultimately,
this is a process which
takes account of the main causes of random, between year variation, as
this is fundamental to
improving the power of trend monitoring programmes. There is also the
desire to reduce costs by
analysing as few samples as possible whilst maintaining the required
Ultimately, Governments and Industry together have a responsibility for
monitoring and assessing
the impact of anthropogenic activities; this must be done in as efficient
a way as possible, coupled
with a common methodology to permit comparability of data. This was a
central objective of the
process to provide a more robust statistically-based sampling regime for
sediments, to inform
Government and Industry.
The Scottish Government's national monitoring programme for marine
sediments is now based
entirely around the Random Stratified Statistical Sampling Regime.
There has been a period of
overlap between the former (fixed sampling) protocol and the introduction
of this new regime.
However this is now well established and being used in assessments (IR1
pages 44-47). As part of
the UK Marine Monitoring & Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS), the Marine
promoted the sampling scheme through the UK Clean and Safe Seas Evidence
Group and the
data has been used in UK assessments (IR2 pages 65-66).
Such methodology has proved very successful, and the UK offshore Oil
& Gas industry now
routinely uses the Random Stratified Statistical Sampling Regime.
It is the adopted regime that
monitors the £22 billion Oil & Gas Industry in the North Sea. Not only
has this provided a robust
methodology, but it has also ensured that the Department of Energy and
regulators have a high confidence in the assessments. The studies, which
have been conducted,
have shown clearly that the regulation that was introduced was
appropriate, and there is a high
confidence in the assessment, including following specific incidents (IR3,
The UK, as a Contracting Party to OSPAR, has promoted the methodology at
Groups, in both OSPAR and the International Council for the Exploration of
the Sea (ICES). This
includes the ICES Marine Chemistry Working Group and the OSPAR Working
Group on Monitoring
in the Marine Environment. This has resulted in data from the Random
Sampling Regime being incorporated into international assessments (IR6
page 44). Key to
assessments at a regional scale (such as the North Sea) is a common
methodology across the
various countries. The UK has taken a strong lead both in the
determination of assessment criteria
and sampling methodologies which are part of the OSPAR Coordinated
Programme (CEMP) which is the international basis on which many North Sea
countries base their
monitoring. This lead has leant heavily on the science of the sampling as
detailed above and the
use of passive samplers, which are now being considered as one of the key
ways forward in
In recent times the EU have introduced new legislation pertaining to the
marine ecosystems. The
Marine Strategy Framework Directive (EU Directive 2008/56/EC; MSFD) and
Decision of 1 September 2010 (2010/477/EU) detail the descriptors of good
and the required criteria and indicators. For hazardous substances, the
"Concentrations of contaminants are at levels not giving rise to
pollution effects." While the
common indicators (across Member States bordering a Region e.g. North Sea)
Marine Scotland has just published a report (IR7) outlining the
proposed new sampling programme
to meet the requirements of the MSFD Monitoring, to be implemented from
July 2014. The
Random Stratified Statistical Sampling Regime of the sediments is
integral to the monitoring
Basically, there is a critical need to correctly assess the human impact
on the environment. ICES
and OSPAR both play a fundamental role in providing direction and ensuring
methodology across marine regions. By presenting robust data, backed up
publications, UK representation at both OSPAR and ICES, on occasions led
from Marine Scotland
Science, is based on a strong and robust evidence base of which this is a
important part [IR8]. The outcomes are monitoring programmes that
deliver in a sound and robust
way, ensuring that the UK is compliant and also using common techniques
Environmental impact has been achieved for a range of different
beneficiaries both in the UK and
internationally providing cleaner seas which has improved marine
sustainability particularly the fish
stocks and marine animals. Cleaner beaches and seas encourage increased
which improve lifestyles and consequently health.
Economic impact has been achieved in the Fisheries industry as cleaner
seas provide increasing
and healthier fish stocks. Also the earlier indication of problems in an
area instigates timely
corrective action which can reduce costs to the Oil & Gas and others
Sources to corroborate the impact
IR1 J. M Baxter, I. L. Boyd, M. Cox, A. E. Donald, S. J. Malcolm,
H. Miles, B. Miller, and C.F.
Moffat, (Editors). "Scotland's Marine Atlas: Information for the
National Marine Plan", Edinburgh,
UK, 2011, 191 pages.
IR2 "Charting Progress 2-The state of UK Seas 2010 Department
for Environment Food and Rural
Affairs on behalf of the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy
Copyright, 2010, 166 pages.
IR3 L. Webster, M. Russell, P. Walsham, L. A. Phillips, I. Hussy,
G. Packer, E. J. Dalgarno, and C.
F. Moffat, "An Assessment of persistent organic pollutants in Scottish
coastal and offshore marine
environments". Journal of Environmental. Monitoring, 13, 2011,
1288 - 1307.
IR4 L. Webster, I. Hussy, A. Craig, M. Russell, G. Packer, E. J.
Dalgarno, D. C. Moore, and C. F.
Moffat, "Determination and environmental assessment of hydrocarbons in
water, fish and sediment
following oil spill at the Gannet Oil Field". Scottish Marine and
Freshwater Science, 2(12), 2011, 1-26.
IR5 L. Webster, M. Russell, I. Hussy, G. Packer, E. J. Dalgarno,
D. C. Moore, and C.F. Moffat,
"Environmental Assessment of Elgin Gas Field Incident — Report 2 Water and
Scotland Science Report, 2012, 1-18.
IR6 "OSPAR. 2010 Quality Status Report". OSPAR Commission,
London, 2010, 176 pages.
IR7 L. Webster, C. D. Robinson, M. Russell, and C. F. Moffat,
"Measurement of contaminants and
their effects in environmental samples — Proposal for the revision of the
Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science, 4, 2013, 1-43.
IR8 Marine Scotland Policy Officer, Scottish Government. Letter
confirming use of the random
stratified sampling regime by OSPAR and ICES.