Oil Spill Assessment

Exponent scientists have more than 40 years of experience in assessing the impacts associated with oil spills, providing consulting services to most of the major international oil companies, as well as pipeline, oilfield engineering design and service companies. In addition, our scientists have supported U.S. and international governments in responding to and assessing spill impacts.


Our services include:

  • Emergency environmental response - cleanup and monitoring chemistry 
    • Oil spill and crisis management
    • Source characterization/fingerprinting 
    • Contamination assessment 
    • Background and baseline assessment 
    • Net environmental benefit analysis
  • Monitoring and NRDA 
    • Exposure and bioavailability assessment 
    • Shoreline surveys and ecology studies - impact and recovery
    • Causal analysis 
    • Injury assessment
    • Economic damages assessment 
    • Restoration 
  • Database development 
  • Geospatial analyses 
  • Training 

Emergency Environmental Response — Cleanup Monitoring Chemistry

Rapid environmental response is critical to effective oil spill management. Exponent scientists are on call for immediate response to oil spill incidents and have expertise in oil spill and crisis management. Our response experience focuses on environmental monitoring, assistance to spill cleanup efforts– including net environmental benefit analysis of cleanup approaches, ephemeral sampling, and hydrocarbon chemistry. In complex cases involving releases into urban estuaries or industrial settings, a strong scientific approach is critical to reconstructing the release, assessing injury, establishing causation, and defining the baseline. Our scientists and engineers excel in the area of source characterization and petroleum fingerprinting, and our clients rely on our combined experience in petroleum fate in the environment to accurately assess impacts and allocate those impacts to various sources.

Monitoring and Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)

One of Exponent’s core, signature business areas is NRDA. Exponent has been a pioneer and a trusted consultant on NRDA issues since the first regulations were developed. Our team has unparalleled experience and depth in supporting industry in the area of NRDAs under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), and under state claims. The fate of spilled oil in the environment must be understood in order to predict the potential for exposure of ecological receptors. Exponent’s team of petroleum chemists and toxicologists have extensive experience with determining exposures associated with oil spills, as well as issues related to the persistence and bioavailability of oil in the environment, and the use of biomarkers as measures of exposure.oil_spill_iStock_20070081
Our clients rely on our combined experience in contaminant assessment and biological injury assessment, along with our knowledge of transport pathways and causal analysis, to help assess injury and allocate those injuries to various sources. By supplementing this expertise with our skills in resource economics, Exponent offers a holistic approach to NRDA. We provide economic support and evaluation of claims for human use losses that often include losses to recreational anglers due to an oil spill. Response to claims of non-market losses can be especially challenging. Exponent’s economists have extensive experience with these non-market methods and can evaluate their appropriateness and limitations. Exponent develops innovative and cost-effective restoration alternatives to compensate for damages to natural resources.

Database Development

Exponent has developed a customizable database and interface to store, summarize, and display environmental data from a wide variety of sites and oil spill investigations. Analytical data, photographs, chromatograms, and scanned documents can be linked to individual data points. The database has a web-tool protected interface that is setup for individual users and includes customized data selection tools that allow simplified searches, selection, and download of data sets based on end-user needs. The data output(s) from the database can be provided in Access or Excel format spreadsheets that can be downloaded by the user for further data analysis and interpretation. Thus, no knowledge of Access is required of the end-users and Exponent’s scientists offers support data analytics services

Geospatial Analysis

Exponent scientists have evaluated the geospatial implications of different oil spill response strategies on shoreline and marine impacts. Our work has focused on the development of a GIS from base shoreline maps and detailed marine bathymetry products. The analysis of possible shoreline impacts from oil spills relies, in part, on the type of shoreline being affected. Our team of aerial imagery and GIS specialists evaluated the shoreline typing and has determined that the usability of aerial photographs to populate a GIS system, and hence to assess oil spill impact and persistence, is highly dependent on the timing and quality of the aerial images. This finding is especially important when it comes to the timing of tides and image acquisition where significant offsets and errors in shoreline typing can occur without such recognition. Geospatial analysis is also useful to examine wind and wave structure in a marine environment, water temperature regimes, and the distributions and abundances of resources at risk.


Exponent scientists have conducted oil spill training programs and seminars for clients worldwide. The training includes all of the environmental issues and response strategies and methods that are part of short- and long-term response efforts. Our primary focus is on environmental sampling, NRDA, environmental monitoring and chemical fingerprinting, but also includes shoreline assessment, toxicity assessment and other oil spill related issues.

Exponent Oil Spill Experience 

  • Amoco Cadiz 
  • Argo Merchant 
  • Bayway Refinery (Arthur Kill) 
  • Cosco Busan 
  • Deepwater Horizon 
  • Ever Reach 
  • Exxon Valdez 
  • Haven 
  • Ixtoc I 
  • Katina 
  • Kure 
  • Kuroshima 
  • Martinez Refinery (Suisun Bay) 
  • New Carissa 
  • Newton Lake 
  • North Cape 
  • Perth Amboy (Arthur Kill) 
  • Prestige 
  • ROPME Sea 
  • Tsesis


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