A new approach to modeling potential success of skimmers and booming strategies has been developed to aid planners in assessing the use of limited resources in their response plans. The Trajectory Recovery Analysis Planner (TRAP) extends the approach of NOAA's Trajectory Analysis Planner (TAP) to provide a way for oil spill response planners to assess the likely effectiveness of their response plans across a wide variety of possible spill scenarios.

As a real spill could happen in a wide variety of conditions, multiple response scenarios need to be simulated on a wide variety of oil spill trajectories. Each trajectory represents a different historical spill start time with random initial tide phase and corresponding weather conditions at that time, based on past records for the location. For each trajectory, an approximation of the weathering of the oil is calculated, and booming and skimming operations are simulated. The response simulations take into account many of the limitations of actual response operations, including daylight hours, equipment shortages, wave height failure, skimmer travel times, skimmer encounter rates, and skimmer efficiencies.

The result is a wide variety of data about the simulated response. TRAP provides statistics summarizing those results. These results can give planners a realistic expectation of the likely success of their planned operations under both helpful and adverse conditions. The results also provide a summary of the shortcomings in the plan, allowing planners to determine where the weaknesses in their plans lie, including the reason for booming strategy failure, and less that expected skimmer recovery. The plan can then be altered and processed again, resulting in information about how those alterations might improve or degrade a response. The types of questions that can be addressed are: Is it better to have more small skimmers, or fewer large ones? Which booming strategies are most effective? Does boom need to be pre-positioned to speed the installation of a given strategy? TRAP thus gives planners a tool with which to quickly and easily explore a wide variety of possible response plans, and help determine where precious resources are best assigned.

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Author notes

1 Although released by NOAA, the information in this paper does not reflect, represent, or form any part of the support of the policies of NOAA or the Department of Commerce. Further, release by NOAA does not imply that NOAA or the Department of Commerce agree with the information contained herein.