EDITOR'S NOTE: This is 1 of 5 papers reporting on the results of a 4-year project to develop an environmental risk-based decision support tool, to assist the oil industry in establishing cost-effective measures for reducing risk to the marine environment from drilling discharges.
In order to achieve the offshore petroleum industries “zero harm” goal to the environment, the environmental impact factor for drilling discharges was developed as a tool to identify and quantify the environmental risks associated with disposal of drilling discharges to the marine environment. As an initial step in this work the main categories of substances associated with drilling discharges and assumed to contribute to toxic or nontoxic stress were identified and evaluated for inclusion in the risk assessment. The selection were based on the known toxicological properties of the substances, or the total amount discharged together with their potential for accumulation in the water column or sediments to levels that could be expected to cause toxic or nontoxic stress to the biota. Based on these criteria 3 categories of chemicals were identified for risk assessment the water column and sediments: Natural organic substances, metals, and drilling fluid chemicals. Several approaches for deriving the environmentally safe threshold concentrations as predicted no effect concentrations were evaluated in the process. For the water column consensus were reached for using the species sensitivity distribution approach for metals and the assessment factor approach for natural organic substances and added drilling chemicals. For the sediments the equilibrium partitioning approach was selected for all three categories of chemicals. The theoretically derived sediment quality criteria were compared to field-derived threshold effect values based on statistical approaches applied on sediment monitoring data from the Norwegian Continental Shelf. The basis for derivation of predicted no effect concentration values for drilling discharges should be consistent with the principles of environmental risk assessment as described in the Technical Guidance Document on Risk Assessment issued by the European Union.