Date of Graduation

Spring 5-20-2016

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Allison C. Luengen, PhD


Oil spill models, ecological risks, response options, and costs were assessed for a discharge of Bakken crude oil into the Northern San Francisco Bay from a train derailment. This assessment was based on the risk of crude by rail derailments into the San Francisco Bay; in 2014, California oil refineries imported over 240 million gallons of Bakken crude oil by rail for processing. A hypothetical scenario was developed from a derailment on the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge and discharging 100,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil into the Northern San Francisco Bay. The oil trajectory impacted the Carquinez Strait, Suisun, San Pablo, and northern Central Bays, totaling 64 square miles of water surface and 11 square miles of shoreline oiled. The fate of the Bakken crude oil will immediately begin to evaporate for approximately 12 hours and disperse into the water column for 5 days. Afterward, the oil will begin to emulsify and 40% of the oil will remain on the surface. Approximately 34 environmentally sensitive sites have a 20% chance or greater of being oiled. Susceptible bird species are predominantly present in fall and winter; plants are more susceptible during periods of growth in the spring and summer. The high dispersion rate threatens fish and benthic organisms. Response methods were analyzed for cost, effectiveness, and additional ecological impacts. Shoreline oiling should be limited and mitigated depending on the incident circumstances: allowing the oil to burn if fire occurred during derailment; or by dispersant application coupled with mechanical recovery, natural recovery, and minimal shoreline cleanup with planting. Cost of response actions range from $233,000 to $4.4 million; total cost including natural resource damages is estimated at $18.4 million. Recommend increasing rail safety standards to prevent further incidents and rail company involvement with oil spill response planning to increase response effectiveness.