Nov. 22, 2019

Review of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Study on Air Quality Modeling in Gulf of Mexico Finds Need for Improvement

Emissions associated with oil and gas exploration, development, and production in the Gulf of Mexico region can result in increased levels of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide, impacting air quality, public health, and the environment.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) commissioned a study, “Air Quality Modeling in the Gulf of Mexico Region,” in 2014 to update its air quality analyses for the Gulf of Mexico region. The study may lead to regulatory changes, including potentially new emission exemption thresholds (EETs), a screening tool to determine if more refined air quality modeling and emission controls are needed.

BOEM asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide an independent technical review of the study. The Academies’ review found the cumulative effect of the study’s biases and uncertainties across the meteorological and emission datasets, and from the air quality models themselves, could be quite large and result in EET estimates that are higher than they should be, or lower than they need to be.

The study’s current results have the potential to underestimate the current and future impacts of outer continental shelf emissions on air quality, visibility, and deposition, according to the National Academies’ review. Furthermore, the EET methods developed by the study are not fully protective of future emissions, which would lead to increased high pollutant levels and potential exceedances of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The committee that wrote the report offered recommendations to improve the analysis.

DETAILS:  Review of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management “Air Quality Modeling in the Gulf of Mexico Region” Study is available for immediate release. Media inquiries should be directed to the National Academies’ Office of News and Public Information; tel. 202-334-2138 or e-mail