Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

Broad Overview of and Rationale for Ocean Acidification Work

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in the Department of the Interior is responsible for managing the use of oil, gas, renewable, and marine mineral resources along the outer continental shelf of the United States.  BOEM is contributing to the knowledge of ocean acidification through research activities taking place along the West Coast and in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. BOEM’s  Environmental Studies Program develops, conducts and oversees world-class scientific research specifically to inform policy decisions regarding development of outer continental shelf energy and mineral resources. This research includes the topic of ocean acidification as it applies to BOEM’s jurisdictional purview. In particular, an increased understanding of ocean acidification-induced biogeochemical changes informs BOEM’s cumulative impacts analysis as part of National Environmental Policy Act, which considers environmental impacts from energy development in addition to other potential stressors, such as climate change.  Further information is needed to assist BOEM in predicting and detecting the effects of offshore energy activities by describing baseline environmental conditions and if and how they are shifting.  BOEM is working to address these information needs and will also use information collected by other entities, including Federal agencies.

On-going Projects Related to Ocean Acidification

In 2008, the BOEM Alaska Region partnered with the University of Alaska and NOAA on a study to examine the biogeochemical characteristics of Arctic seas off the coast of Alaska in light of climate change and ocean acidification. The field and laboratory components of this study have been completed. The Final Report is available here. 

The Pacific Regional Intertidal Sampling and Monitoring (PRISM) team is a group of BOEM biologists within the BOEM Pacific Region that has conducted monitoring since 1991. The PRISM team, on behalf of BOEM, is partnering with the Channel Islands National Park and the University of California, Santa Barbara to maintain an ocean monitoring station (ocean pH, temperature, and salinity) within the park boundaries. In initial stages of this ocean acidification monitoring, BOEM funds contributed in FY 2012 helped with testing water samples and general quality assurance work and in FY 2013 purchased a pH sensor that was deployed in the summer of 2014. This monitoring at Channel Islands National Park is done in partnership with a broader network of agencies and university groups to track ocean acidification on the Pacific coast.

Near-future Activities Related to Ocean Acidification (Planned within the Next 2 Years)

In the Gulf of Mexico, BOEM is leading an effort in partnership with Shell Exploration and Production Company, NOAA, and Texas A&M University to establish an ocean acidification coral monitoring site, including an instrumented mooring and a sample validation program. This study will assess variability in carbonate chemistry at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and will eventually help understand the implications of regional ocean acidification-related changes. The study was awarded in FY 2014, with Texas A&M University acting as Principal Investigator. The sub-surface and surface ocean acidification moorings are currently being built and are scheduled to be deployed at Flower Garden Banks in 2016.

In the Beaufort Sea, the Marine Arctic Ecosystem Study Ecosystem Dynamics and Monitoring of the  Beaufort Sea, An integrated-science approach study began in FY 2014, and is continuing for an undetermined period of time, with funding currently proposed through FY 2018. This study is designed to examine, in part, the complex interplay of ocean currents, downward radiation, suspended matter, nutrients, carbon, and sea ice coverage. This interplay requires more research because it is poorly understood at the spatial and temporal scales needed to understand marine ecosystem functioning in the Beaufort Sea.

Far-future Activities Related to Ocean Acidification (Planned within the Next 3-5 Years)

The BOEM Pacific Regional Office has proposed a study called Predicting and Detecting the Effects of Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Using Long-term Ecological Data to use Department of the Interior long-term monitoring programs to predict how global climate change and ocean acidification will alter rocky reef ecosystems in southern California and to detect effects already underway.  Funding for this study has yet to be allotted.

Gaps in Agency Portfolio of Activities Related to Ocean Acidification, Compared to Priorities Outlined in the Strategic Research Plan

The potential to sequester carbon below the seabed on the outer continental shelf with engineering technology exists, and its regulation falls under Federal jurisdiction. If carbon sequestration on the outer continental shelf proceeds, it is likely an activity 7-10 years out. Prior to it being a realistic possibility, however, BOEM research may need to develop an improved understanding of potential impacts from sub-seabed carbon sequestration on ocean acidification.

BOEM is conducting research to develop best management practices for CO2 sub-seabed sequestration on the outer continental shelf. This study was initiated in 2010 with the University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology, and completed in late 2015. A worldwide literature and data survey conducted as part of this study will aid in the development of best management practices that will address all aspects of sub-seabed geologic CO2 transport and sequestration projects. The literature references have been collected into a database that will be made publically available with the best management practices upon project completion.

Untapped Opportunities Inside of Agency for Projects Related to Ocean Acidification

BOEM funds much ocean monitoring, and the potential exists to leverage these investments by adding measurements related to ocean acidification. For example, BOEM could consider including the analysis of parameters used to measure/evaluate ocean acidification (seawater pH, partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2), dissolved inorganic carbon, and total alkalinity) as an addition to any studies that include field work or that could easily accommodate this extra collection/analysis. BOEM could also consider the addition of instrumentation to planned meteorological buoys or platforms within offshore lease areas and to the collection of water samples pertinent to pCO2 or ocean buffering capacity (e.g., dissolved inorganic carbon, dissolved organic carbon, colored dissolved organic matter, absorption/attenuation) during routine servicing of buoys or platforms.

Ideas for How Agency Could Work with Other Federal Agencies on Activities Related to Ocean Acidification

BOEM is open to discussion for improved data sharing and standardized methodology for collections related to ocean acidification.

Areas Where Agency Mission is Being Inhibited by Knowledge Gaps that Fall out of Agency’sPurview

BOEM environmental analyses would benefit from an improved understanding of climate change and ocean acidification for identification of cumulative impacts and potential mitigation and minimization measures for BOEM jurisdictional actions.