One of the world’s authorities on offshore oil spill countermeasures has taken the helm of CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship.
Dr Ken Lee will head a multidisciplinary team of over 200 CSIRO scientists and technical staff to provide the science to support the healthy and sustainable coexistence of the ocean energy industry with all other marine industries and communities.
Dr Lee, a Canadian, was formerly the Executive Director of Canada’s Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research, a Centre for Expertise in the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
He is internationally recognised for his expertise on the environmental impacts of offshore oil and gas production and oil spill counter-measures.
Dr Lee led the Canadian contingent helping to deal with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon, BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He contributed to a recent report on the oil spill by the US National Research Council which noted the importance of understanding the wider economic and social impacts of the spill, in addition to immediate ecological and environmental damage.
Dr Lee said Australia has the potential to lead the world in ocean energy research and setting environmental protection standards. To achieve this, his research team plans to increase its collaboration with the Australian and international oil and gas industry.
“Offshore oil and gas will play a critical part in Australia’s future energy needs,” Dr Lee said.
“In the past few months, 13 new offshore petroleum exploration permits have been granted in the Indian Ocean off the coasts of Western Australia and Tasmania. The Great Australian Bight is another example of a potentially vast, untapped oil and gas resource.
“We need to ensure regulators, industry, governments and marine park managers are equipped with the best possible scientific information available.”
Dr Lee said a holistic and coordinated approach was needed to understand the full impacts of offshore oil and gas activities on the environment and surrounding communities – from exploration through to decommissioning operations.
“For example we are collaborating with BP and South Australian research partners to study the Great Australian Bight and develop a near-unique whole of ecosystem and socio-economic research program to ensure future developments for the area coexist with the environment, industries and the community,” Dr Lee said.