Research & Development
The Texas General Land Office is a national leader in oil spill research. Groundbreaking work on oil dispersants, shoreline cleaners, bioremediation and high-frequency radar have been funded by the Land Office research and development program. Through the R&D program, the Land Office is improving response technology and developing alternative methods for removing oil from coastal waters.
A provision of the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act (OSPRA) of 1991
called for a research and development component that is funded with
$1.25 million per year from the Texas Coastal Protection Fund.
Over the years, the Land Office has coordinated with other state agencies, the state’s higher education institutions and private industry to establish viable research projects for oil spill prevention and response. Funded projects have involved preventive technologies, spill detection, environmental data collection, chemical countermeasures, recovered materials management and in situ burning.
Texas General Land Office R&D Projects Funded for Fiscal Years 2012 - 2013
Redesign of the Original TABS Type I Buoy Based on Lessons Learned from the TABS Responder Buoy Project
- PI: Dr. Norman Guinasso (Texas A&M University – Geochemical and Environmental Research Group)
- Using lessons learned from the design and fabrication of the TABS Responder Buoy (FY2010-FY2011), this project will redesign the original TABS Type I buoy giving it updated electronics, software and greater sensor capability. The original TABS Type I buoy could only measure near surface currents and water temperature. Taking advantage of newer, smaller sensor technology, the new TABS I will be capable of measuring near surface currents and current profiles to 40m, waves, near surface salinity and water temperature, barometric pressure, air temperature, wind speed and wind direction as well as GPS location. The coastal buoy will have a small solar tower to support sufficient solar panels to maintain the buoy at sea for extended periods, similar to the existing TABS I buoys. The tower will provide a platform on which the meteorological and telemetry systems will be mounted along with a radar reflector and night flashing light. The buoy will be made as small as possible to allow easy handling and transportation, but large enough to withstand strong storms and hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. The hull will be designed to provide the greatest amount of reserve buoyancy possible while maintaining transportability and a slope follower shape.
Determination of Reference Intervals of Plasma Osmalality, Electrolytes, Venous Blood Gases and Lactate in Select Species of Gulf Coast Birds to Guide Fluid Therapy during Oil Spill Response
- PI: Dr. Jill Heatley (Texas A&M University – College of Veterinary Medicine)
- Fluid Therapy is the cornerstone of restoring avian health in oil spill response. Knowledge of electrolytes, plasma osmolality, venous blood gases and plasma enzymes guide this emergency treatment in other species such as humans and dogs, but these analytes remain poorly investigated in birds, especially the seabird species commonly affected by oil spill events along the gulf coast. Best achievable diagnosis and care is currently based solely on information obtained from two tests: determination of packed cell volume and total solids concentration. While these tests are relatively fast and inexpensive, they give very limited information for diagnosis and treatment of birds. Veterinarians and rehabilitators are hampered by lack of reference ranges to determine blood abnormalities during oil spill response as well as a lack of knowledge of appropriate fluids for treatment. This study proposes to close that gap in knowledge for select common species along the Gulf Coast which are likely to be affected by oil spills. Multiple analytes in birds can now be determined from as little as 0.2 mls of blood within 2 minutes using point of care analyzers. Reference intervals will be determined for these analytes, the effect and interference of blood hemolysis on these analytes will be characterized, and derangement of these analytes will be investigated in real time oil spill response events using point of care analyzers. Reference species will be the Yellow-crowned night heron, the brown pelican, the mottled duck, the black bellied whistling duck and the northern gannet. Future studies will provide will use additional species.
Improving Hydrodynamic Predictions of Surface Currents Near the Texas Coast Used for Rapid Oil Spill Response
- PI: Dr. Robert Hetland (Texas A&M University – Department of Oceanography)
- This project builds on a previous TGLO funded Research and Development project in which a new higher-resolution hydrodynamic model focusing on shelf circulation was designed and tested. This team proposes to test the newly developed hydrodynamic model conﬁguration within the real-time framework of the existing TABS Modeling Effort, and use this model to better understand mixed current regimes, when both up- and down-coast currents are present simultaneously along the Texas coast. They will test a newly developed Ensemble Kalman Filter (EnKF) application for the old TGLO TABS Modeling Effort grid (that includes the entire Gulf) to provide better error statistics for the General NOAA Operational Modeling Environment (GNOME). The EnKF algorithm will assimilate real-time Texas Automated Buoy System data in the Gulf model and is likely to significantly improve the model’s forecasting skill. Preliminary results have shown that the data assimilation scheme is very effective, and prediction errors are considerably reduced after only one assimilation cycle. This suggests that the scheme will be very effective at assimilating data and providing accurate short-term forecasts, even when wind forcing conditions rapidly change.
Evaluating Hydrodynamic Uncertainty in Oil Spill Modeling
- PI: Dr. Ben Hodges (University of Texas – Center for Research in Water Resources)
- This project develops a method to provide automatic sequencing of multiple hydrodynamic models and provides for automated analysis of model forecast uncertainty. The modeling approach extends the prior work of Advanced Oil Spill Nowcast/Forecast for Texas Bays and Estuaries, supported under GLO’s Oil Spill Research and Development program. The hypothesis underlying the proposed work is that analysis of hydrodynamic model error in old forecasts (i.e. forecast that have been superceded by real-time) can be used to predict the near-term error for new forecasts. Our goal is to provide a continuously-updated series of forecast models from prior times with different time spans that predict the present real-time. The difference between these old forecasts and observed data is used to quantify model error. This error is used to estimate how uncertainty evolves over time for new forecasts, and hence the forecast time horizon over which the forecast is believable. The key to success of the proposed project is an automated sequencing of hydrodynamic models that enables 12 models to be simultaneously running on a single multi-processor workstation.
Biological Inventory of the Central Texas Coast
- PI: Dr. Clay Green (Texas State University – Dept. of Biology)
- This project will provide: (1) an update to the inventory of faunal species used in the TGLO Oil Spill Planning and Response environmental database and (2) a gap analysis to identify areas of the middle third of the Texas Coast that are lacking in biological data relevant to oil spill planning and response. Gaps in biological information identified by this project may guide future R&D efforts in acquiring new biological data for mapping sensitive habitats.
Shoreline Type Mapping of the Central Texas Coast
- PI: Dr. Jim Gibeaut (Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, Harte Research Institute)
- This project will provide up-to-date shoreline type classifications in the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) ranking system for the middle third of the Texas coast. It will update and improve the accuracy and resolution (10 m) of the ESI shoreline data in the current Texas General Land Office Oil Spill Planning and Response Atlas. The shoreline developed for this work may also be used for shoreline change analysis. The new low-altitude oblique photography and video acquired for this project will allow shoreline inspections for a variety of coastal management purposes.
Assessing the Ecological Efficacy of Select Wetland Restoration Approaches in the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico
- PI: Dr. Anna Armitage (Texas A&M University – Galveston, Dept. of Marine Biology)
- Since 2008, the objective for this project has been to evaluate the effectiveness of landscape engineering (which includes sediment/solid sources, hydrology and vegetation establishment) to generate the predicted restoration of marsh functionality in a restored wetland in the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area. This project will continue monitoring the restored site development and perform experiments to investigate the mechanisms that drive the observed patterns. Partners on this project include Chevron, TPWD and LSU. This group will be continue and expand this project in the following ways.
The continuing objective is to evaluate the efficacy of the landscape engineering, which includes sediment/solid sources, hydrology and vegetation establishment, to generate the predicted restoration of marsh functionality. Since development of restored marsh structure and functions typically occurs over a time span of five years or more, this group will continue their monitoring of restored site development for an additional two years in order to encompass a five-year recovery period. In the current proposal, the objectives are to:
- Broaden the scope and applicability of their findings by expanding their monitoring program to include additional restoration sites (including some beneficial uses sites) and other reference areas.
- Quantify the secondary production (higher trophic levels) in restored marshes in order to assess the critical ecosystem function of nursery support.
- Evaluate the timeline of restoration and provide practical recommendations for the restoration of ecosystem functions.
- Perform experiments to investigate the mechanisms that drive the patterns observed in their monitoring program.