3 Gulf Research Institutions to Receive First Round of $500MM Funding

BP announced significant progress in its half-billion dollar pledge to the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI). Three research institutions in the Gulf region will receive a total of $25 million in fast-track funding for high-priority studies of the distribution, composition and ecological interactions of oil and dispersant.

On May 24 BP announced a commitment of up to $500 million to the GRI open research program to study the impact of the Deepwater Horizon incident, and its associated response, on the environment and public health in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It is vitally important that research start immediately into the oil and dispersant's impact, and that the findings are shared fully and openly," said BP chief executive Tony Hayward. "We support the independence of these institutions and projects, and hope that the funding will have a significant positive effect on scientists' understanding of the impact of the spill."

Three initial studies will help establish critical baseline data as the foundation for subsequent research. In this first round of funding, GRI is providing:

  • $5 million to Louisiana State University;
  • $10 million to the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) hosted by the University of South Florida;
  • $10 million to the Northern Gulf Institute (NGI), a consortium led by Mississippi State University (NGI).

The $5 million to LSU is part of GRI's commitment to provide $10 million over 10 years to the university. This was announced by GRI at its launch on May 24, 2010. This funding is in recognition of LSU's significant experience in dealing with the oil and gas industry, and its deep multi-disciplinary knowledge of the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf region.

"Being selected to receive funds from BP to conduct research into the impacts of oil spills and dispersants on the environment is truly a testament to the high-caliber research expertise of our faculty," said LSU Interim Vice Chancellor for Research & Economic Development Doris Carver. "These grant dollars will allow our researchers to put their expertise to work to help understand the environmental impacts of oil spills and to develop solutions to help mitigate those impacts."

FIO is a consortium of 20 institutions in Florida with marine science interests, including the 11 state universities. FIO was established by the State University System to support Florida's coastal marine science, oceanography and management programs through education, research, and public outreach. FIO facilitates the activities of educators, scientists and agencies responding to state, regional, national and international issues through provision of centralized facilities and research vessels.

"I am proud of the Florida Institute of Oceanography and the service it has provided to our state and nation in this time of crisis," said Frank T. Brogan, Chancellor of the State University System of Florida. "As a statewide collaborative of researchers from public and private universities and marine research institutes, the FIO is uniquely positioned to provide an organized approach to this research effort. BP's support will enable the institute to develop critical baseline data for scientists to use as they continue their work on how to best deal with the ramifications of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico."

"We are very pleased to begin addressing the immediate needs of assessing the impact on the state of Florida," said William Hogarth, acting director of the FIO and dean of USF's College of Marine Science. "We look forward to continuing to work on researching, monitoring and understanding the impacts of the oil spill on Florida."

NGI is a consortium of universities led by Mississippi State University, in partnership with the University of Southern Mississippi, Louisiana State University, Florida State University, and Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

"Based at Stennis Space Center, NGI and its member universities have proven themselves to be leaders in research that can advance our scientific understanding of the Gulf region and its climate, natural resources, and habitat," said David Shaw, Mississippi State's Vice President for Research and Economic Development. The institute will bring extensive background and expertise to this very important undertaking."

In the near future BP will publish a Request for Proposals, inviting research institutions to participate in an independent peer-review process to register their interest in becoming a GRI Research Center. These centers will be selected by a peer review process, overseen by GRI's Advisory Council. GRI will use the highest professional standards in determining the institutions that will receive this competitive funding. Once issued, the RFP will be available to download from www.bp.com.