This 1995 provided an initial review of the impacts of oil and gas exploration and production on the marine, coastal and estuarine environments. It was intended as a precursor to the more thorough review of sensitivity that was undertaken through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. It includes a wide range of impacts arising from routine operations and identifies two of the more significant – pollution by produced water and smothering of benthic communities by cuttings. The most important risk factor in accidents is the discharge of oil. Cases are documented where this has occurred at all stages in the process, drilling, storage and transport. The impact of oil pollution is related to the proximity of the spill to the feature of interest as well as to volume and type of oil spilled. A small spill in the wrong place can have a major adverse impact on a wide range of marine and coastal organisms as well as sea birds.
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