Environmental sensitivity indices (ESIs) have long been used to identify coastal and shoreline resources particularly vulnerable to oil spills and ensuing mitigation measures. In the Gulf of Mexico, oil production by the United States and Mexico has increasingly focused on deepwater sources. As oil exploration and production continue further offshore, deepwater and open ocean pelagic resources increasingly become the focus of susceptibility to oil well blowouts. Methodologies are proposed to spatially quantify ESIs specifically for offshore living marine resources. A multi-attribute utility model is proposed to integrate biological resource sensitivity measures and measures of potential economic losses to define spatially explicit environmental sensitivity. Model sensitivity is examined using three weighting schemes for various environmental attributes. The relative environmental sensitivities of four simulated deepwater blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico were analyzed and compared. While differences were found between four oil well blowout scenarios in terms of the overall sensitivity and to the individual attributes, results were relatively insensitive to the weights assigned to various attributes. The uses of ESIs in optimizing oil production locations to minimize potential impacts on sensitive ecological resources and economic uses are discussed.
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Chancellor E., Murawski S.A., Paris C.B., Perruso L., Perlin N. (2020) Comparative Environmental Sensitivity of Offshore Gulf of Mexico Waters Potentially Impacted by Ultra-Deep Oil Well Blowouts. In: Murawski S. et al. (eds) Scenarios and Responses to Future Deep Oil Spills. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-12963-7_26