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Produced water (PW) from the oil and gas industry represents the largest direct discharge of effluent into the marine environment worldwide. Approximately 130 million m3 PW is released on the Norwegian continental shelf annually from offshore production platforms.

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Organic compounds (mostly hydrocarbons), metals, radioisotopes, production chemicals, solids and dissolved gases comprise the major contents of PW.

Regulatory authorities classify substances discharged to the marine environment according to environmental risk, with specific focus on persistence, bioaccumulation and toxicity, and by defining 'predicted no effect concentrations' (PNEC) for several predefined PW components, primarily resolved oil components, particulate oil and production chemicals. However, the presence of unknown components with uncharacterized and potential long-term toxicity are not in any way regulated by the authorities.

The PW-Exposed project addresses the urgent need to provide a detailed understanding of the composition and toxicological impacts of PW. By utilizing a combination of sophisticated fractionation approaches and cutting-edge high-resolution chromatography and mass spectrometry, we will provide a thorough chemical characterization of PW.

PW fractions will be tested utilizing an expanded in vitro toxicity screening toolbox. This will specify which component groups are the main drivers for PW toxicity and their potential involvement in specific and important biological processes. This approach will prioritize and select the most potent toxic fractions for final toxicological investigations using embryos of pelagic and benthic fish species. These tests will validate the contribution from toxicity-driving component groups at the organism level.

By directly engaging with key stakeholders such as oil companies and the Norwegian Environment Agency, the data generated in the project will be used as a basis for improving current PW risk assessment approaches.

Project partners

  • SINTEF Ocean, Trondheim, Norway
  • Institute Of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
  • University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
  • University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK
  • University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  • NOAA; Seattle, USA
  • Universität Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany
  • BioTrix, Trondheim, Norway


Publication overview - PW-Exposed

Key Factors

Project duration

01/03/2018 - 28/02/2021

The project is financed by the Norwegian Research Council.