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Sensitivity mapping - What is it all about?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sensitivity mapping - What is it all about?

OSRL recently received an Oil Spill Contingency Plan tender for an area along the east coast of Africa which required sensitivity mapping.


What does sensitivity mapping involve?

Sensitivity mapping aids situational awareness and response strategy development for responders and decision makers during an incident, making it a vital tool in oil spill preparedness and response.




Strategic, Tactical and Operational maps are produced by combining the following elements:

  • Oil spill modelling
  • Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) and habitat mapping
  • Biological sensitivities (such as turtle nesting sites, mangroves)
  • Socio-economic sensitivities (such as ports, villages)
  • Protected areas (such as SSSI’s, marine reserves)


How did we help?

By combining all of these elements, we were able to determine the strategic ranking of the entire identified coastline and compile tactical maps for the most at risk areas.

By clearly identifying the most sensitive sites, our client will be able to prioritise response for most at risk areas. 

Environmental, socio-economic and operational data are presented geographically, with the vulnerability of sensitivities and potential impact areas clearly defined. This enables our client to establish fast and effective prioritisation of response resources


What did we deliver?

  • Strategic and tactical map covering the entire identified coastline. The strategic map focused on the area at greatest risk of impact from the worst case oil spill modelling scenario.

This level of strategic information exceeds recommendations in the Oil and Gas industry's good practice guides.

Author Bio(s)

Jenny Mitchell

Senior Geomatics Specialist

Jenny joined OSRL in 2013 and during her eight years with the Geomatics team, she has delivered numerous global oil spill preparedness modelling projects, as well as being fundamental in the development of OSRL’s GIS and visualisation capabilities. She has developed both external services, such as environmental sensitivity mapping, and internal GIS processes and visualisation tools.

Jenny is also part of the dedicated on-call response modelling team, where she has provided 2D and 3D modelling forecasts for international oil spill incidents.

Jenny holds a degree in Earth Science and a Masters in Coastal Zone Management and previously worked in New Zealand, undertaking hydrodynamic and tsunami modelling.