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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Coastal Impacts Technology Program: Tools for Improving Environmental Practices in Oil and Gas Development


Online GIS tools with data on wildlife and water quality in a user-friendly story map format.

Written by Carolyn LaFleur, Research Scientist, Energy Production

In a four-year, $4 million effort, The Coastal Impacts Technology Program (CITP), a research initiative of the HARC Environmentally Friendly Drilling Program (EFD) engaged a diverse group of stakeholders in research to benefit the Texas Coastal Zone. The program focused on addressing environmental aspects of oil and gas operations, including site restoration, air emissions, water resources, and workforce development. Research was funded by revenue sharing from offshore oil and gas operations through the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP), a multi-year research program authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, administered in Texas by the Texas General Land Office.

Revenue sharing from offshore oil and gas funded numerous conservation projects in coastal states through CIAP.

In two related CITP projects HARC ecosystem scientists developed online tools designed to provide information on coastal resources and management practices for environmental protection in the planning of oil and gas activities. These tools are based in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that provide access to a wealth data, maps, images and other resources for preventing loss of wetland function during energy exploration and production operations. The objectives were to classify wetland functions dependent on wetland type, location and other factors, then use this information to develop a decision support tool to aid managers in determining best management practices to mitigate certain impacts.

Research focused on a wide range of oil and gas exploration and production activities that could disturb wetlands and wildlife due to noise, vibrations, land vehicle and marine traffic, erosion of disturbed soil, and so on. Wetland functionality explored in this work included habitat for biological populations that depend on these wetland habitats for their survival (waterfowls, fish, shellfish, timber, threatened and endangered species). Flood mitigation, fisheries support, storm surge protection, aquifer recharge, water quality improvement, aesthetics and recreation, nutrient cycling and more are examples of important wetland functionality.

The “Wetland Friendly Drilling Tool” provides decision support in interconnected user portals to visualize, map, and search wetland functions, phases of drilling and impact minimization measures. The Wetland Friendly Drilling Tool is free and publicly available on the HARC website at

Explore data on waterbirds, fish, and water quality along the Texas coast in the “Texas Coastal Resources Viewer” at