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A Review of Climate Change Impacts to Oil Sector Critical Services and Suggested Recommendations for Industry Uptake

Theodoros Katopodis
1,2,* and
Athanasios Sfetsos
Environmental Research Laboratory, NCSR “Demokritos”, 15341 Agia Paraskevi, Greece
Department of Mechanical Engineering & Aeronautics University of Patras, 26500 Patras, Greece
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Infrastructures 2019, 4(4), 74;
Submission received: 23 October 2019 / Revised: 18 November 2019 / Accepted: 23 November 2019 / Published: 26 November 2019


Climate change already has far-reaching impacts on the oil industry, putting the operation, reliability, and growth of the sector at risk. Oil infrastructure has multi-decadal lifetime projections; thus, climate change and extreme weather events such as extreme temperatures, hurricanes, high winds, lightning strikes, storm surges, flooding, etc., pose an extra challenge to the oil supply chain, from upstream to downstream. In this paper, we review the climate change risk assessment frameworks, the impacts of climate change on oil infrastructure, and we identify gaps in the current knowledge, also suggesting future search directions on adapting the oil sector to climate change. The work overviews linkages between climate and oil industry design, operational, and service thresholds in a comprehensive hazard threshold matrix. Existing risk assessment methodologies that account for existing regulatory frameworks and interdependencies with other infrastructures are studied, leading to mitigation, adaptation, and sector resilience recommendations.

1. Introduction

The oil industry is a critical part of the global energy sector, as their processes have significant effects on all the productive sectors of the economy and the population. For many years, crude oil and oil products had the largest share in gross inland energy consumption, while they are still the principal energy source for electricity generation and the main source for thermal power [1,2].
According to the findings of the EU-CIRCLE project [3], climate change (CC) is anticipated to contribute to the faster aging and degradation of the oil infrastructure processes, from the oil extraction and upstream to the storage, refining and distribution processes, reducing lifecycle, service level, and leading to major disasters. Extreme temperatures, winds, hurricanes, droughts, flash flooding, storm surges, and forest fires are expecting to increase globally [4], with potentially severe off-site consequences through toxic-release, oil spillages, fire, or explosion scenarios (Natech accidents) [5,6,7]. Considering that CC is the second most critical factor that might increase the occurrence of a Natech event [8], actions should be taken to ensure the resilience of oil infrastructure, the investments in the oil industry, and the safety of people and the environment.
A holistic approach is, thus, required to make resilience-based informed decisions on the oil infrastructure growth and sustainability under extreme weather events (EWE) that are projected to be exacerbated under CC. Under those circumstances, the aim of this is to:
  • introduce a state-of-the-art review of CC impacts to the oil industry, as well as, mitigation and adaptation measures;
  • identify the exposure -of the oil industry to EXE and assess the oil infrastructure’s vulnerability to CC, through the development of a hazard threshold matrix, based on a consistent approach for capturing the critical event parameters;
  • explore the oil sector’s dependencies and interdependencies with other critical sectors;
  • set the basis for implementing an impact assessment framework for related studies;
  • provide recommendations for future research activities and industry uptakes
The paper explores all these challenges and difficulties and it is structured as follows: the proposed research methodology is presented in Section 2, including the literature review methodology and the resilience framework; CC assessment frameworks, the dependencies, and interdependencies of oil sector, the CC impacts on oil industry and possible adaptation measures are presented in Section 3; Identified gaps and recommendations for future work are presented in Section 4; Finally, the conclusions are discussed in Section 5.

2. Research Methodology

The proposed research methodology has been designed to provide valuable information to stakeholders for improving the resilience of the vulnerable oil sector to CC impacts. As the term resilience, encompasses the ability/capacity of any CI (or their network) to prevent, protect and prepare for CC impacts [9,10], the accurate collection is a critical step to identify exposure, vulnerabilities, and impacts to the interconnected and interdependent CI of oil industry [11,12]. Any accurate vulnerability assessment requires a thorough analysis of existing literature review, design standards, and operational parameters of the climate impacts on the assets of the oil infrastructure [13,14]. As it is described further in Section 2.1, these weather-related thresholds can be found in literature and are values above or below a level, which the likelihood of a climate impact is considered sufficient to render the asset or operation exposed to severe damage and/or disruption of service critical operations (Table A1 of Appendix A [15]. Finally, Section 2.2 describes the elements of the resilient framework that includes the oil infrastructure taxonomy methodology, build on the development of an oil process-based analysis, based on the analysis of its constituent assets of the corresponding critical interconnected and interdependent processes within the oil sector. Also, it presents the climate hazards with the most critical impacts on the oil infrastructure and the suggested holistic methodological framework.

2.1. Literature Review Methodology

The data collection methodology uses a process-based (based on asset and critical services) approach to assess risk(s) caused by climate hazards, and identifies the related impacts on the oil industry processes and performance. To identify the impacts of EWE and CC in the oil industry, a systematic data collection based on scientific research, literature review of reports (scientific journals articles, theses, government and non-governmental reports) related to different geographic locations globally was performed. This information was primarily studied to classify relevant information associated with extreme weather impacts and adaptation or mitigation measures in the context of oil infrastructure and its sectors and subsectors, dependencies, and interdependencies.

2.2. Elements of the Oil Industry CC Resilience Framework

2.2.1. Overview of the Oil Sector Critical Services

The oil industry’s supply chain encompasses activities associated with the exploration, extraction, refining, transportation, and distribution of oil refined products across the world (from upstream to downstream as presented in Figure 1). The upstream sector involves the operations of crude oil extraction to the surface. The midstream sector includes the most common transportation modes (pipelines, rail, oil tanker and truck), storage, and wholesale marketing of crude or refined petroleum products. Finally, the downstream sector includes the oil refining processes along with the fuel distribution to the other CI, retail and commercial customers, public services, etc.

2.2.2. Taxonomy of the Oil Infrastructure

The analysis is based on the oil sectors’ taxonomy based on the: (i) the critical services across the oil supply chain (Figure 1); (ii) the Department of Homeland Security Office of Infrastructure Protection (IP) implementation of the Infrastructure Data Taxonomy [16]; (iii) the European (EU) recommendations and guidelines included in the Directives 114/2008 [17,18] and (iv) the [19] Assessment Report (AR5) regarding the CI sectors analysis.
This study divides the oil sector into constituent critical services and assets from upstream to downstream, as presented in Table 1. The level of granularity applied has been defined based on a systematic analysis of existing literature review, design standards, and operational parameters of the climate impacts on the assets/critical processes of the oil infrastructure [13]. For example, in the oil sector, an oil refinery is considered as a critical service, which can be divided into its constituent processing assets/units, e.g., atmospheric distillation unit, fluid catalytic cracker, etc.

2.2.3. Climate Hazards

The climate hazards that are considered in this study are introduced in Table 2. These are used to provide an estimation of the likelihood of the climate-induced risks to infrastructures and contribute to the identification of the operational or structural thresholds. They have been divided into two separate categories: (a) the climate drivers, which are the direct outcome either from observational data, or from different models, and (b) to climate hazards, which are a direct consequence of climate drivers. In this study, extreme winds and hurricanes and storm surges/waves are discussed together due to the commonality of their impacts.

2.2.4. Impacts and Vulnerability

This study addresses the following impacts of climate hazards in Section 3.3, as shown in Table 5:
  • direct impacts on the main processes of the oil infrastructure (loss of functionality, service, and operations)
  • loss of infrastructure (e.g., destruction failures)
  • cascading effects from other CI sectors such as electricity/transport/water that affect the integrity and operations of oil assets
  • changes in the provision of “services and products” to the society such as demand and consumption patterns
  • indirect impacts (including externalities such as societal costs)

2.2.5. CC Risk and Adaptation Assessment Framework

The identification of climate-related risks is made, taking into account the asset design thresholds and asset interconnections, the direct and indirect climate impacts as presented schematically in Figure 2. These could form the basis for risk-informed decisions on climate change adaptation of the oil industry and improving infrastructure resilience [13].

3. Analysis of CC Risks to Oil CI

The literature review includes (i) CC risk assessment methodologies; (ii) dependencies and their interdependencies with other sectors, and domino effects; (iii) CC impacts to the oil sector assets and processes assets and processes; and (iv) CC adaptation solutions and resilience frameworks.

3.1. Literature Review of CC Risk Assessment Frameworks

Nowadays, the oil industry has gradually shown a strong commitment to sustainable and resilient development, by introducing extreme weather events into broad risk management frameworks [20,21,22,23,24]. The majority of processes and facilities have been designed to withstand CC risks, but extreme events may exceed design and operational thresholds. Many scientists have already emphasized the prospective for climate hazards to trigger chemical accidents leading to releases of toxic, flammable, and explosive materials [25,26,27,28,29,30]. The combination of increasing complex industrial designs and the anticipated increase in the frequency and intensity of the EWE due to CC [31] could lead to potentially more devastating Natech in the future.
The protection of the Oil industry is a significant component of national security for many countries and nations. The European Program on CI Protection [32] delivers a methodical, network-based strategy and for risk identification and mitigation following the “all-hazards” principle. The SEVESO directive (Directive 82/501/EEC) introduces a holistic risk management system (Directive 2012/18/EU), requiring industrial risk management plans regarding oil hazards prevention. Only individual actions have been implemented to oil or chemical industries where risk assessment methodologies have taken into consideration the impacts associated with the Natech events [33].
According to [34], Natech Risk Management addressing CC has already been implemented in six EU Countries (Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Sweden [35,36,37,38,39]). In the UK, CIA’s Responsible Care program [40] recommends that large complex industrial facilities subject to Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) regulations should have emergency plans that include climate-related risks in their risk database. The UK addresses relevant risks on its national CC Risk Assessment and has made available a sector-specific guide for CC Adaptation Plans [40]. In Norway, plans and decisions adopted (in 2017) at various administrative levels accommodate the requirements implied by future CC by assessing climate-related risk factors and their significance for the Norwegian economy [41].
In parallel to national policies, EU has already funded several programs to develop CC risk assessment frameworks. The European Risk Assessment and Contingency Planning Methodologies for Interconnected Energy Networks addressed the protection and resilience of energy supply for European interconnected energy networks [42]. Also, a Risk and Vulnerability Analysis (RVA) method for critical infrastructures has been developed in the Risk and Decision Systems for Critical Infrastructures (DECRIS) project under the Research Programme on Societal Security and Safety (SAMRISK) using the “all-hazards” approach across sectors [43]. Last year, the pan European framework for strengthening Critical Infrastructure resilience to climate change (EU-CIRCLE) tested, in a case study, the risk assessment methodology on CI energy facilities of the primary energy hub of Cyprus, including oil transportation and storage and electricity production [44].
Across the U.S., many regions and sectors are already implementing climate risk management [45]. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is committed to identifying and responding to the challenges that a changing climate poses to human health and the environment, as described in [46]. Several industry advocacy groups (such as the American Petroleum Institute (API), American Chemistry Council, National Association of Manufacturers, International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA), Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), and the Climate Leadership Council) are working to advance climate proofing of the sector. In Canada, Northeastern British Columbia has performed an assessment of the region’s future risks and opportunities, providing a starting point for integrating climate adaptation measures into planning, risk management, and decision-making throughout the dominant oil and gas sector [47].
Moreover major oil and gas companies study, develop, and utilize integrated CC risk management to identify, assess, characterize and manage climate-related risks as report [48] mentions. The acclimatize report in [49] describes that a company’s business strategies, its future objectives, and plans are the starting point for any risk assessment of the impact of CC, in order to support the development of an informed dialogue between institutional investors, companies, and policy-makers about the direct and indirect impacts of a changing climate on key business sectors. IPIECA through its report “Addressing adaptation in the oil and gas industry” [50], made an effort to examine oil and gas industry awareness of CC-related risks and identify suitable responses and ways in which these responses are being integrated into broad risk management frameworks. The Australian National University [51] in 2013, has provided evidence to help investors assess and integrate climate risk and opportunity in the oil and gas sector into investment analysis. Several companies are currently using the climate-related financial disclosures [52,53]. The stakeholder engagement approach is followed by five major oil and gas companies to tackle related physical risks from sea-level rise, and enhanced storm surges on the continental U.S. [54,55].

3.2. Oil Sector’s Dependencies and Interdependencies with Other Critical Sectors

The starting principle behind this section is that “A CC risk assessment that does not take into serious consideration CI dependencies and interconnections could underestimate and devaluate risks” [56]. Apparently, the increasingly dependent, interdependent, and interconnected nature of CI exposes previously unseen risks, new vulnerabilities, and opportunities for disruption across the CI networks [57,58]. In consonance with EU-CIRCLE approach in the registry of assets, a dependency is a uni-directional connection among two assets belonging to the same or other infrastructure (sub)sectors, through which the ability of one infrastructure to provide a service is dependent on the operation of the other infrastructure but not vice versa.
Extreme winds can damage overhead power lines and lead to loss of power supply on oil refineries, which might result in delay or disruption of the oil processing, resulting in a cascading failure [58]. A flash flooding event might affect refineries’ oil production, leading to delays or interruption of the fuel supply, which could be used in electricity infrastructure for generation, causing a shortage of electricity production in the area. A lack of electric power is still able to impact supplementary other CI serviced by the utility, creating domino effects, with economic, societal, or political disturbances in a broad area [59].
During storms, either pumping systems and compressor stations operations, or electricity and telecommunications networks (ICT) can be totally out of service, as flooding events can drive to power losses [60,61]. For example, hurricane Katrina caused pipeline closures as a consequence of power loss, while additionally, power failures in the electricity and ICT networks caused the shutdown of ports, railroads, refineries, and pipeline stations that were not physically impacted through the hurricane [60]. As presented in Figure 3 and Table 3, the oil industry is largely dependent on the transportation and distribution of crude oil, natural gas, electric power, water, telecommunication, industry, etc. [62], whilst also the above-mentioned sectors are highly dependent on the oil sector (Table 4). All transportation sector modes, such as rail, oil tankers, vessels, shipping containers, up to gasoline supply stations, and trucks are virtually used for the transportation and distribution of the oil and refined products. Thus, interruptions and delays to the whole supply chain might are likely due to EWE.
In the past, extreme hydro-meteorological events have damaged extensive parts of roads, bridges, and rail crossings, leading to road and spillage accidents with releases of polluting elements in the environment. The transportation sector is also heavily dependent on oil products; as a matter of fact, the highest dependency of all sectors [2], with a percentage of 93.8% usability of oil and refined products, as compared to the 41.7% and 10.0% for the energy and industrial sectors, respectively. The oil demand of the transportation sector globally is in the range of 11 billion liters per day (blpd) regarding gasoline, diesel, heavy fuel oil, and jet fuel [63], while Eurostat Energy Balances of 2014 comments that industry sector demands more or less 20.0% of oil supplied to EU markets. In spite of the declining production and consumption in Europe (EU), crude oil remains the largest contributor to the energy generation industry—it meets the global demand in the range of 60.0% [3]. The industry sector (including chemical infrastructure) consumes around 0.6 billion toes (~15.0%) of refined petroleum products as raw material input for production and manufacturing purposes [64].
The oil sector is highly dependent on electrical power and electricity networks. For example, in U.S. the purchased electricity consumed at refineries in an annual base is around 45–48 TWh in line with [66] (a refinery of around 30 million Mt per annum, consumes about 300 MW power). Despite the fact that oil industries meet their needs for electrical power through the use of their integrated combustion engines to generate electricity, a large amount of electricity is also provided by the electric and distribution utilities via the transportation and distribution grid, which is also exposed to EWE, as Table 3 describes. Quite the reverse oil is highly necessary for electricity production. Only in 2016, oil and gas accounted for 30.0% of total OECD gross electricity production, making the CI dependence on oil extremely high [67]. For instance, Malta, Cyprus, and Greece are the top three EU countries that rely profoundly on petroleum products, which account for 98.0%, 92.0%, and 10.0% of consumption [68]. Table 4 indicates the most critical issues that the interdependent electricity sector should address due to the CC impacts on oil refining and transportation processes.
Moreover, oil refineries use quite large volumes of water, mainly for their cooling system. Despite the fact that oil industry water needs are through a self-running network and sea or river water, there is a still great need for water surplus. Indeed, the water sector provides potable water through the drinking water network, wastewater, or even flood water network. As energy and water are connected, the production of energy requires a significant amount of water, and in turn, the extraction, treatment, distribution, and use of water together with wastewater treatment necessitate a huge amount of energy [69]. Results of [70] presented that oil refinery water consumption was 0.34 and 0.47 (L water/L crude) for cracking and heavy coking processes, while gasoline needs the largest amount of water, around 0.60–0.71 L water/L gasoline to be produced. Smaller amounts of water are needed for boiler feed, processing, sanitary services, and fire protection. Literature (Table 4) so far indicates that the cooling water quality and quantity might be affected by the extreme temperatures, while above-ground infrastructure such as valves, pumping stations, and pipelines are the most exposed assets to precipitation events, floods and landslides, making oil industry vulnerable to water infrastructure damages. Contrariwise, a technology from the Information and communications technology (ICT) sector (e.g., telecommunication, industrial automated technology and equipment, monitoring systems), is critical in the processes/operations within the oil sector supply chain.
Based on the literature findings, the dependency of oil infrastructure to transportation and ICT sectors is the highest, while interdependencies to electricity, natural gas, and the water sector are considered to be medium (Figure 3, Table 3 and Table 4).

3.3. Τhe CC Impacts to the Oil Industry

The critical review of an already remarkable international research, shows evidence that oil sector is mostly exposed to hydrometeorological disasters (like flooding, hurricanes, storms, SLR, etc.), which can impact and disrupt the oil sector’s vital processes, either the supply chain, or the oil sector’s actual structure [51,55,77,91,96,97,98], causing severe complications and many problems to the industry’s ageing infrastructure (e.g., buildings, grounds, plants, machinery, and cooling system) [40]. More specifically, processes within the upstream critical service are highly vulnerable to EWEs, as described by literature [51,55,77,91,96,97,98], while on the contrary, the oil downstream is exposed to EWE according to [27,49,54,55,77,99,100,101,102,103] and midstream [34,40,76,77,79,83,84,85,87,88,89,92,93,94,104,105,106,107,108,109,110,111]. Table 5 presents an in-depth assessment of the impacts of CC on oil infrastructure with respect to the following CC projections. All these impacts were studied in relation to the CC impacts on oil infrastructure, and a summary is delivered for each of the critical processes in regard to the climate parameters.

3.4. Adaptation Measures

For over two decades, the oil industry has been concerned about CC impacts; its attention has been mainly focused on mitigation plans regarding GHG emissions reductions [137] and not implementing serious actions in terms of an adaptation policy. Only a handful of oil and gas companies developed comprehensive, corporate-wide CC adaptation strategies [51], including EXE and CC impacts to the oil sector explicitly [50]. The Paris agreement [138], introduced a way to kick off the implementation and integration of adaptation measures to national strategies in between member states. Given the above, adaptation policy is referred to as the establishment of a detailed program of activities at the country level with the aim to address the consequences of CC. It is expected to support the establishment of climate-resilient infrastructure by ensuring that an asset is located, designed, built and operated with both the current, and future climate in mind and incorporates resilience to the impacts of CC over the lifetime of that asset [139].
As highlighted above, there is little guidance available on how CC impacts and Natechs should be prepared for or avoided, as this is a relatively new field of study [140]. Table 6 presents an updated review of the most recognized structural and non-structural prevention and mitigation measures to reduce potential CC damage and losses to the oil sector.

4. Recommendations for Industry Uptakes

The work has performed an extensive overview of the main elements of how CC is anticipated to impact the oil industry and detailed efforts on how to adapt to emerging challenges. The effective and efficient response to CC related challenges require coherent activities on behalf of the oil industry that: (a) encompasses the facility, the built environment, including their assets, the community, and the emergency response-capacity and resources [77]; (b) builds on future projections and identified risk through-out the facility lifetime; and (c) engages in risk-informed decisions including long term planning and preparedness under deep uncertainties.
As a conclusion to this work, we recommend the following domains that would help the industry to enhance the oil sector resilience:
1. A shift from risk to resilience informed decision making under CC, considering Natech accidents
Innovative and comprehensive risk assessments are needed that include CC, based on data-driven approaches that allow a CI operator to assess risks, accurately identify and decrease vulnerabilities, improve resilience and diminish potential climate impacts [153], also addressing oil infrastructures’ interconnections. CC should also be considered as an important Natech triggering mechanism in Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA), which is mandatory for the oil industry. Also, it is highly recommended to introduce the element of “resilience–by–design” when assessing the potential impacts of newly planned infrastructures to climate pressures and future time horizons.
2. Enhance the oil sector resilience capacities
The resilience of the oil sector should be quantified holistically based on the existing capacities of the sector, following the comprehensive approach of the EU-CIRCLE project:
  • Anticipatory capacity, linked to a better understanding of risks at different temporal and spatial scales, early warning systems, and making risk and emergency.
  • Absorptive capacity, linked to increasing defenses and reducing vulnerabilities accounting for structural, technology, processes and operational domains
  • Coping capacity, linked to enhancing cooperation and mounting effective response within- and across- organizational boundaries during crises
  • Restorative capacity linked to faster business recovery
  • Adaptive capacity linked to augmenting the sector’s potential to adapt to emerging threats and challenges and be able to invest in new capabilities (e.g., through research)
3. Support adaptive processes of the oil sector
Climate risk management and implementation of adaptation actions will require increasing internal capability, as well as enhancing the knowledge base of management personnel, design engineers, and contractors. In addition, it may also require significant capital investments (for example, plant modifications), particularly in the longer term, and also efforts to identify and evaluate risks, develop strategies to mitigate and manage risks, and subsequently, to implement these strategies [50]. Changes in the hazards’ frequency of appearance, magnitude, intensity, speed of event should be exhaustively estimated when assessing the impact of CC. Hazards evolving at a faster pace will require new capabilities to anticipate, such as early warning systems, and efficient responders’ placement and also faster deployment and establishing collaboration between stakeholders. More intense hazards could lead to higher vulnerabilities and potentially increased damages to the operational capacity of CI.
4. Tools to process climate data and extremes
CC may lead to the re-design or enhancing of CI assets defenses. It is recommended to perform these, based on the micro-scale climate characteristics rather than relying on large scale global simulations. Work on identifying new relevant and reliable indicators related to the specific characteristics of CI, even on a local scale, should be actively pursued in the context of climate services. Think “out of the box” when considering which hazards could be of relevance to CC risk assessment. The use of “synthetic hazards” to stress-test CI capacities is highly recommended, as global/regional climate models are not yet capable of capturing several high-end phenomena (e.g., tornadoes, waterspouts, and lightning) which are considered outside of the capabilities of present Global and Regional Climate Models.
5. Increase knowledge on impact chains, including interconnections and interdependencies
Given the complex and interconnected nature of the oil sector, a more comprehensive risk assessment and analysis framework are needed in order to capture the full range of future potentially disruptive scenarios, adequately. Future work should concentrate on the development of a universal framework in order to deliver concrete understanding and assessment of oil sector dependencies, interdependencies, and cascading effects, thus contributing to the effective determination of oil industry CC. The vulnerability of CI to CC is a multi-dimensional process and should account for (a) physical/structural damages due to extreme events, (b), the operational element of CI, including changes to supply and demand profiles, (c) the impact to society, which should not be neglected.
6. Engage in scientific/climate community and industry stakeholders
It is recommended that the oil sector takes a leading role in establishing local/regional/thematic forums to expand the knowledge base for CC studies. This requires the development of dedicated methodologies and tools, as well as guidance for operators and authorities on how to consider climate hazards in industrial risk assessments [77]. Also, it requires further understanding of how CC will impact the oil industry and how these impacts can affect other CIs [154,155,156]. It would be highly beneficial if scientists and engineers worked closely with industry and policy-makers in an interdisciplinary effort to effectively tackle the problem of Natech risk reduction. In this regard, public-private partnerships could play a key role in linking science, practice, and policy-making [34,157,158]. Finally, it is worth remembering that CC is not only about negative impacts, but rather one of the many challenges that CI owners/operators must address when preparing for a sustainable future. EU-CIRCLE project’s key recommendation is that Resilience based Adaptation could provide a sustainable modus operandi linking CC Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction, and this process should engage CI operators, national authorities, and scientists.

5. Conclusions

This work provided a comprehensive overview of the potential impacts of CC and related hazards on the oil industry, assessing the potential to substantially affect the lifespan, service level leading to significant damages to the facilities and operations of the oil industry. The study identified how climate parameters impact oil CI, assessed vulnerabilities of assets and services, and discussed the direct dependencies and interdependencies to other critical sectors. These set the underlying framework for conducting CC risk assessments and presenting mitigation and adaptation measures. This study attempted to quantify the CC impacts on oil infrastructure and to detect the most vulnerable areas for future investigation.
The present work presented a review of how CC is expected to affect the oil industry considering multiple impacts and hazards. A holistic approach has been selected that includes: (i) direct impacts to the main processes of the oil infrastructure (loss of functionality, service, and operations); (ii) loss of infrastructure (e.g., destruction failures); (iii) cascading effects from other CI sectors such as electricity/transport/water that affect integrity and operations of oil industry; (iv) changes in the provision of “services and products” to the society such as demand and consumption patterns; (v) indirect impacts (including externalities such as the societal costs). This study can be considered as a starting point for climatologists, researchers, and practitioners alike to perform CC risk assessment studies and facilitate cooperation.


This research received no external funding.


Authors acknowledge partial support by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the grant agreement n° 653824/EU-CIRCLE.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results.

Appendix A

Table A1. Oil sector assets and critical services vulnerability to CC.
Table A1. Oil sector assets and critical services vulnerability to CC.
HazardType of Asset/Per-ProcessVulnerability (H/M/L)ThresholdSource
Temperatures (Hot)Refinery vacuum system and fractionation plant crystallizers cooling systemsMedium32 °C is the maximum designed cooling water temperature[159]
Thermal plantSmallLoss of capacity by 1.0–20% for each 1 °C higher than 20 °C[124,125]
Maximum water temperature at discharge should be 30 °C.[160]
Personnel(**)Heat index from 32 °C to 39 °C can lead to moderate risk, while heat index higher than 46 °C cause extreme risk to employees safety[161,162]
Oil demandMediumReduced oil demand by 12.0% per 1 °C increase[71]
Temperatures (Cold)Oil pipelines damages (oil transportation and distribution might be interrupted & delayed)HighArctic coast had shown a tendency to increase, more than the average rate of 1.0–2.0 m per year (*)[163]
Freezing of coolant lines to a chemical reaction vesselMedium<0 °C[84]
Cycles of freezing and thawing may threaten the structural integrity of lines and other processing equipmentMedium<0 °C[164]
Oil pipelines (burst pipes or failures of pipelines)Medium(*)[40]
Electricity lines/hydrogen plant/distillation equipment/fluidic catalytic cracking unit damagesHigh−7.2 °C[86]
Working conditions, maintenance jobs at oil extraction sitesTemperatures in the range of −30 °C[74]
Precipitation (rain/snowfall)-humidityStorage tanksMediumFailure and loss of containment of the storage tanks contents (*)[40]
Drainage systems to remove spills & the fire protection systemHighThreshold: rainfall of 1 h rainfall with a 1.0% chance of exceedance in 100 year period[147]
Flooding and damaging indirectly several of the transportation modes, leading to oil transportation/distribution interruptions and delaysMedium50 mm/24 h are able to flood roads, 100 mm/24 h can pose issues to street traffic, reducing visibility and flooding passageways. At 150 mm/24 h, road constructions might cause failure, whilst bridges can be flooded, and roads might be inundated[40,94,135]
High winds/HurricanesPipelinesHigh26 m/s[92]
Large vesselsLow10 m/s
Large vesselsHigh25 m/s
Shipping containers/portal cranesLow12 m/s
High-speed ferriesLow20 m/s
Overhead transmission & distribution linesHigh30 m/s[100]
Industrial buildingsHigh3-sec wind gusts, 52 to 66 m/s[165]
Damages start from 30–33 m/s
Total failures from 52–55 m/s
Offshore platformsHigh73 m/s[121]
Offshore structuresHighA return period of 100 years corresponds: to 41 m/s in 1-h average winds or around 50 m/s in constant 1 min winds and a wave height of 22.0 m[166,167,168]
Port (taller constructions have to be closed)Medium9 m/s[88]
Lightning strikesPlatforms (damages to electrical systems, loss of equipment, function and production)Small1 strike could cause damage and lead to workers evacuation (*)[118]
Storage tanksSmallHighly exposed (*)[169]
Sea level rise (SLR)RefineriesHigh [65,170,171]
Given a category 1 hurricane, an SLR <0.5 m almost doubles the number of refineries exposed to flooding by 2100, under the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP4.5) scenario
Wastewater treatment facilities/oil refineriesMediumSimulations show that for a return period of a 100-yr flood event and 1.5 m of SLR, moderate damages might occur[172]
Oil facilities sitting next to coastlineHigh<3 m above the high tide line[173]
Storm surges/wavesOffshore pipelineHighWave height: 1.0–1.2 m[135]
Offshore platformsHigh27.0 m horizontal pressure results in the failure of structure[174]
Refineries (flood protection system)HighOil spills, as storm surges from hurricanes have reached 8.5 m[77]
Flash FloodingElectrical equipmentHighFunctionality threshold >0.3 m (inundation depth)[81]
Small, medium, and large refineriesHighFunctionality threshold depth to be set at 1.2 m.
Drainage system (triggering fire)MediumWater level @ 1.5 m inside the refinery[77]
Control stationMedium40.0% percentage of damage after 0.3 m (inundation depth)[81]
Oil pumping stationsMediumDamage starts after 0.3 m of inundation depth. From 1.8–3.0 m at 40.0% percentage of damage
Forest firesDistribution lines, Εxtra High Voltage (EHV) transmission lines located inside or outside the refinerySmallRisk comes from smoke and particulate matter deposition: PM2.5 concentration is >350 μg/m3[78,80]
DroughtThermal plant/cooling systems/oil extraction & productionSmallThreshold: (*)[91]
BargeLow0.025 m drop in river level: decrease towing capacity by 255 tons[111]
(*)Threshold value still not defined in the literature
(**)Depends on climatic conditions and region


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Figure 1. The oil supply chain, from upstream to downstream.
Figure 1. The oil supply chain, from upstream to downstream.
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Figure 2. High level description of the oil sector adaptation and the performed analysis under the scope of this paper.
Figure 2. High level description of the oil sector adaptation and the performed analysis under the scope of this paper.
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Figure 3. The interdependence of the oil infrastructure. Source: adapted from [65].
Figure 3. The interdependence of the oil infrastructure. Source: adapted from [65].
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Table 1. Oil critical infrastructure sectors and subsectors.
Table 1. Oil critical infrastructure sectors and subsectors.
CI SectorCI SubsectorsCritical Services (Upstream-Midstream-Downstream)Assets
Energy (Oil, Gas, Coal, Electricity, Renewables)Oil
  • Extraction
  • Transportation
  • Distribution
  • Refining/Processing
  • Storage
  • Offshore Drilling Units (drilling ships, jack-ups, etc.)
  • Onshore Drilling Rigs
  • Onshore Oil Wells
  • Offshore Oil Wells/Oil Platforms
  • Offshore/Onshore Oil Pipelines
  • Oil Pumping Stations
  • Tanker vessels, Trucks, Rail Cars
  • Port
  • Oil Storage Facilities
  • Marine Terminals
  • Oil Refineries
  • Cooling system
  • Refined Products Storage
  • Storage tanks
  • Buildings
  • Employees
Table 2. Climate parameters.
Table 2. Climate parameters.
Climate DriversClimate Hazards
Temperatures Flash flooding
Precipitation (rain/snowfall)—humidityForest Fires
High winds/HurricanesDrought
Lightning strikesEarth movement (caused by climate drivers such as rain landslide, erosion, avalanches)
Sea level rise
Strom surges, waves
Table 3. Oil industry dependency on other types of Critical infrastructure.
Table 3. Oil industry dependency on other types of Critical infrastructure.
Climate ParameterPrimary Affected SectorSecondary Affected SectorProcessImpactSources
TemperaturesTransportationOil sectorAll processes
  • Damages to the oil supporting transportation infrastructure
  • Fuel supply delays or interruptions
  • Increased cooling or load needs
  • Increased maintenances, transportation and distribution costs
High winds/hurricanes/Precipitation (rain/snowfall)-humidity/Flash flooding/Sea level rise/Storm surge/waves/Lightning/Forest firesElectricity/ICTOil sectorAll processes
  • Items thrown into the air by wind, or wind above the structural threshold of a wooden pole, can impact distribution electricity lines and lead to loss power supplies and control systems
  • Transmission lines, electrical equipment, substations, control valves, and control stations can be damaged due to floods and are able to cut off electricity provided to oil refineries
  • Lightning strikes affect the electricity lines by both direct (intercept with line conductors, towers or shielding wires) and indirect effects (flashover on the electrical equipment on the line)
  • Also, smoke and ash deposition can ionize the air, creating an electrical path away from the lines. This can shut down the lines and produce power outages.
Temperatures/High winds/hurricanes/Precipitation (rain/snowfall)-humidity/Flash flooding/Sea level rise/Storm surge/waves/DroughtWaterOil sectorAll processes
  • The cooling water quality and quantity might be affected by extreme temperatures. Also, water pipelines might freeze in the pipe occurring expansion and cracking
  • Above ground infrastructure such as valves, pumping stations, and river crossings are those of the most exposed pipeline segments during a flood event
  • Drought, extreme precipitation, floods, sea level rise (SLR), etc., can lead either to landslides or to erosion-scouring of foundations and pipe supporting systems
Temperatures/High winds/hurricanes/Precipitation (rain/snowfall)-humidity/Flash flooding/Sea level rise/Storm surge/waves/Drought/Forest fires/Earth movementTransportationOil sectorAll processes
  • Extreme hot conditions might change the means of transporting products due to the reduced sea ice covering the Arctic sea
  • Interruptions, delays, disruption of inspection, restoration and accidents (from tanker trucks, vessels, shipping containers, up to gasoline supply stations) might occur due to hydro-meteorological events
  • Extreme winds can uproot trees and provoke damages to unprotected electromechanical equipment, meters, occurring interruptions and delays
  • Oil transportation by marine vessels might be liable to hazards from flooding, and disruption of fuel delivery might occur. Also, it can destroy roads, bridges, and rail crossings, or generating landslides that could straight affect oil transportation with releases of polluting elements
  • Landslides can cut off transportation networks, leading to disruption of operations. Also, structural damages to pipelines or other equipment integrity caused by weakened soil structure might occur.
Temperatures/High winds/hurricanes/Precipitation (rain/snowfall)-humidity/Flash flooding/Sea level rise/Storm surge/waves/Drought/Forest fires/Earth movementIndustrial SectorOil sectorAll processes
  • Delays or interruptions of relevant electromechanical equipment, tools, raw and materials might occur
High winds/hurricanes/Precipitation (rain/snowfall)-humidity/Flash flooding/Sea level rise/Storm surge/waves/Earth movementNatural GasOil sectorOil refining/processing
  • Interruptions in the fuel supply to the gas compressor might occur, due to the exposed ground pipelines, valves, etc.
Table 4. Critical infrastructures dependencies on the oil industry.
Table 4. Critical infrastructures dependencies on the oil industry.
Climate ParameterProcessPrimary Affected SectorSecondary Affected SectorImpactSources
TemperaturesOil extractionOil sectorTransportationDamages to the transportation infrastructure[71,72]
Oil refining/
ElectricityFuel supply delays or interruptions for generation purposes, lubricants, etc.
Increased cooling or load needs
Oil transportation/distributionTransportationMaintenance of the oil transportation and distribution sub-sector[40,76,77]
High winds/hurricanes/Precipitation rain/snowfall)-humidity/Flash flooding/Sea level rise/Storm surge/waves/LightningAll processesOil sectorElectricity/Transportation/Industry/ICT/WaterFuel supply delays or interruptions Delays and interruptions of lubricants, raw materials etc.
Table 5. Overview of climate change impacts on oil infrastructure.
Table 5. Overview of climate change impacts on oil infrastructure.
Critical ServiceClimate ParametersImpactsSource
Oil extractionTemperaturesIntegrity of oil extraction, or the transportation infrastructure erected upon it (thawing of permafrost)[71,72]
Oil spill as a result of the reduced coastline ice coverage (Arctic regions)[112,113]
Workers’ health is highly exposed, along with maintenance and production delays[74]
Icebergs might collide to sea platforms limiting the drilling time[74]
Delays in the pace of drilling and finishing wells, due to the need for further equipment at drill sites[75]
High Winds/HurricanesThe integrity of both onshore and offshore oil facilities leading to Natech accidents [7]
Significant damages to the oil industry, oil spills and maintenance and repairing activities [114,115,116,117]
LightningDamages to electrical systems, resulting in loss of equipment, functionality, and production[118]
Sea level riseInundation of offshore infrastructure and failures[119,120]
Increased degradation and weathering of pipelines and infrastructure due to ocean acidification could result in oil spills[46]
Storm surges/wavesWave inundation of the decks and failure of rig tie-down components[96,121,122]
Overturning and total failure of offshore structure and platforms
DroughtDrilling and the creation of underground storage caverns[73]
Oil refining/
TemperatureImpacts on cooling system efficiency, cooling water quantity, plant design, operation requirements, and materials, as well the quality of the refined products[96]
Ιncreased cooling loads in buildings, shutdowns in refineries [73]
Distresses of the safety systems operation, due to biological growth (algae, mussels, clams, etc.)[123]
Disturbances to the catalytic processes leading to reduced performance [40]
Reduced efficiencies of electricity-producing turbines and compressors[124,125]
Reduction in the efficiency of the plant, as bacterial reactions taking part in the activity of an effluent treatment system (EFT) [40]
Decreases or interruptions, as a result of power outages, due to inefficient flow of oil and liquids[75]
Freeze of instrumentation and coolant lines, shut down the hydrogen plant and triggering damages on the electricity lines, the plant’s distillation component, as well as to the fluidic catalytic cracking unit[86]
Damages, closures, oil shortages and loss of life, as a result of accidents in pipelines [40,84]
Precipitation (rain/snowfall)-humidityUnforeseen shutdowns of unitary or refinery processes (steam boilers, cooling systems, pumps, and electrically operated safety-control mechanisms)[77]
Overloading the inlet of air filters causing damages to downstream equipment[40]
High winds/HurricaneDamage to structural elements (collapsing processing units), leading to shut off operations, causing loss of production[99]
Damages to electromechanical equipment, pipes, valves and to overhead electricity lines inside the refinery area [81]
Loss of utilities (e.g., power, communications, steam, compressed gasses, taking out power supplies and control systems[40]
Lightning strikeDamages to refinery processing and storage activities (internal plants drainage systems or compressor station)[27,100,126]
Sea level riseToxic chemical leaks due to flooding and rupture of tanks and pipelines[54]
Storm surge/wavesCollapse of flood protection system leading to flooding of refineries and potentially oil spills [77,102]
Flash floodingInternal pipeline ruptures and corrosion[77]
Increase flow and pressure to underground infrastructure/structures, i.e., pipelines, wastewater treatment facilities, power plants, and paper mills[46]
Electrical equipment, electrical plants, substations, control valves and control stations and pneumatic control systems failing [40,55]
Soil erosion in locations where refineries are sited[103]
Increased flow and pressure to containment systems may result in back feed and flow of product resulting in increased discharges of oil [46]
Forest firesDamage to transmission lines (physical damage) and cut of electricity provided to oil refineries [78,104]
Damages and delays in production due to smoke and ash deposition
DroughtDisturbs the hydraulic fracturing and oil refining processes [51,65,73,127]
Oil storage tanks (tank farms)TemperatureIncreased costs of storing water on-site for managed disposal, especially if containment systems overloaded.[40]
Precipitation (rain/snowfall)-humidityCollapse, loss of containment (flammable and combustible liquids), weakening of structures and in some cases in the presence of mold, due to the water accumulation on the rooftops[7,99,128]
Lightning strikeExtensive explosion could be activated that can severely damage exposed instrumentation and structures leading to Natech accident
Flash floodingDecrease tank headspace thereby displacing buffer space available to prevent overflow/overfill, leading to oil spills accidents[46]
The weathering of underground and aboveground storage tanks
Increase flow and changes of navigable water depth, thereby increasing difficulty in preparing and implementing planning distance, booming and cleanup strategies
Floating off foundations and scouring[129]
Sinking of tanks and flooding of the internal plant drainage systems, increasing the risk of a fire threat[99]
Buildings/personnelTemperaturesWorker’s performance drops. Also impacts the shift in seasonal demand cycle for industrial processes and labor needs[40,87]
High indoor temperatures lead to thermal discomfort [40]
Workers are highly exposed to heat stress after prolonged work in high temperatures (heat-stroke, heat exhaustion, and death)[74,130]
Precipitation (rain/snowfall)-humidityMovement restriction of key staff around the site and staff traveling to/from work[40]
High winds/HurricanesLimiting workplace safety (too dangerous to work at height)
Collapse of processing units and tanks, remove roofs of buildings and threaten the structural integrity of buildings[77]
Empty tanks, rooftops, piping, the connections between storage and process units, cabling and other electrical equipment are highly exposed[77,79]
Lightning strikesThe workers involved in maintenance jobs might be exposed [131]
Sea level riseDamages to drainage systems, buildings, control rooms, and personnel can occur[132]
Storm surge/wavesCoastline buildings, control stations, and other infrastructure inundation and corrosion [133]
Flash floodingFlooding leads to contamination of water and to probable reactions with stored materials and safety systems [91]
Workers involved in rescue, cleaning, and restoration operations are totally threatened [134]
Impacts on staff well-being and disruption to work attendance[40]
Oil transportation/distributionTemperaturesThe temperature range of volatile chemicals is exceeded during transport[40]
Greater needs for maintenance of oil transportation and distribution sub-sector. Also, more refrigerated distribution is required, increasing costs[40,76]
Alternation to the means of transporting products and materials due to the reduced sea ice covering the Arctic sea[71,87]
Oil or coolant lines might freeze in the pipelines leading to expansion and cracking,
Temperature rises, leaks, or temperature and pressure changes might appear inside pipelines
Precipitation (rain/snowfall)-humidityInterruptions, delays, disruption of inspection, restoration and accidents might occur[94]
Structural damages to pipelines or other equipment integrity caused by weakened soil structure[135]
Electrical damages to equipment might also occur, preventing the normal port operations, also interrupting shipping or other industrial operations, increasing the risk of collisions.
High winds/HurricanesInterruptions and delays to the whole delivery and distribution system (from tanker trucks, vessels, shipping containers, up to gasoline supply stations) [88,89,90,91,92]
Extreme winds can uproot trees and provoke damages to unprotected electromechanical equipment, meters, occurring interruptions and delays[79]
Lightning strikesPipeline failures and oil spills[77,106]
Sea level risePipelines’ exposure to sea or river water, might lead to corrosion of underground pipes as a consequence of saltwater intrusion of groundwater [85,135]
Storm surges/wavesDisplacing covers and spans, in the way of uncovering and exposing the pipeline (either by causing vertical displacement or rupture or by destabilizing the sand or silt above the underground offshore tubes)[92,107,135]
Interruptions to oil transportation (by vessels, boat handling, ferry docking, barge)[108,109,110]
Irregular increase in the water levels of canals, lakes, and rivers, affecting the supply of crude oil and of raw materials[77]
Wave forces can expose and harm offshore pipelines, either by causing vertical displacement or rupture or by destabilizing the sand or silt above the underground offshore tubes [92,135]
Flash floodingErosion of foundations and underground pipe supports (scouring), or trigger landslides or subsidence in the sites of the petrochemical sector, leading to accidents to pipelines [34,40,77]
Damages to the above-ground infrastructure such as valves, pumping stations, and river crossings. Sensors installed in the interior of pipelines might failure causing several issues and leaks to the pipeline systems[77,81,82]
Oil transportation by marine vessels might be liable to hazards, and disruption of fuel delivery might occur. Roads, bridges, and rail crossings can also be destroyed. Also, landslides might be triggered that could straight affect oil transportation with releases of polluting elements [77]
DroughtDisruptions, delays, and stoppages in petroleum delivery might occur, reducing, for instance, the cargo limits for shipping[73,111]
Lead to landslides, or to erosion-scouring of foundations and pipe support systems [40]
Earth movement due to heavy rainsCut off transportation networks, leading to disruption of operations, causing loss of containment, and increasing maintenance and pollution costs[47,136]
Table 6. Prevention and mitigation measures to address climate change to oil industry.
Table 6. Prevention and mitigation measures to address climate change to oil industry.
Critical ServiceClimate ParametersAdaptation MeasuresSource
Oil extractionTemperatureHeating systems for water systems hydraulic fracturing at drill sites to prevent frost[75]
High winds/HurricanesReview design thresholds of offshore structures considering CC [141]
Upgrading oil platforms, the rigs and the number of anchors) to make it more resilient to hurricanes[51,99,142]
Lightning strikesOffshore drilling companies should invest in lightning protection for offshore drilling[143]
Sea level riseRaising of the decks of offshore platforms[119,120]
Storm surges/WavesPlan and training (including exercises) for the evacuation of personnel[144,145]
Increasing the height of the platform
Oil processing/refiningHigh Winds/HurricanesReview of the design of installations located in the coastline. Filling of empty tanks to avoid floating or wind buckling of the shell, tying down of components to reduce the risk of missile creation during high winds, or the special protection or relocation of safety-critical systems to avoid wave loading and water intrusion[77]
Lightning strikesMore research into the dynamics of lightning impact on equipment is required
Storm surges/wavesSafe protection and relocation of crucial components and to build concrete walls and dikes[146]
Flash flooding(i) Position new facilities considering CC and risks of flooding; (ii) Flood and coastal erosion management strategies for existing facilities; (iii) Flood defense measures; (iv) Improve drainage systems[49,51]
Waterproofing of equipment and buildings, securing of equipment (e.g., anchoring storage tanks, restraining gas cylinders), and adequate emergency-response and contingency planning to help minimize downtimes.[77]
(i) flood protection and adaptation measures, including the reassessment of flood-prone zones; (ii) avoiding building in flood-prone areas where possible; (iii) adoption of slowing, steering, and blocking water techniques; (v) elevation of buildings or building components above the 100-year flood contour level
Development of alarm safety flood systems[146]
Increase storage capacity for vital equipment and supplies[49,51]
(i) Removal of solid salt to approved landfill; (ii) Brine injection; (iii) Ocean outfall; (iv) Treatment of salt to enable it to be used as table salt or other commercial uses
Drought(i) Explore and invest in the development of substitute water supplies; (ii) collecting stormwater and floodwaters; (iii) more efficient use of water; (iv) water treatment and recycling[49,51]
Oil storage (tank farms)Precipitation (rain/snowfall)-humidity(i) Evaluation of geographic diversification to be able to address regional EWE; (ii) Available emergency power and water supplies, pumping and wastewater treatment; (iii) Development and improvement of robust climate-proof business continuity plans; (iv) Adopt insurance tools to cover risks[49,51]
The quick removal of oil spills. Design of drainage systems to remove spills and at the same time to be fire protected[147]
Lightning strikesDevelopment of ELPS systems[148]
High Winds/HurricanesReview design structural thresholds considering CC[140,149]
Building/personnelTemperaturesImprove health and safety policies considering CC[49,51]
Extreme winds/HurricanesReassessment of the equipment and facilities design[77]
Lightning strikesImplementation of measures and directives related to lightning protection (IEC 62305–2)[150]
Storm surges/waves, Sea level riseInvesting in drainage systems and constructing seawalls[151]
Flash floodingDetermining direct flood damage through depth-damage curves (represent the flood damage that would arise at specific water depths per asset)[152]
Oil transportationTemperaturesImplement temperature hazard in future risk assessment of road and rail transportation systems[77]
Extreme winds/HurricanesAs oil pipeline technology is mostly designed to withstand the 100-year storm, maintenance, and regular inspections should be focused on (i) pipelines sited at ultra-shallow water; (ii) pipelines sited at arid and semiarid areas where mudflows can be generated; (iii) Pipelines with diameters below 0.1 m (iv) platforms[107]
Forest fires(i) Reduce the risk of pipeline explosions; (ii) Invest in fire breaks protection; (iii) Decrease bushfire fuel loads[49,51]

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Katopodis, T.; Sfetsos, A. A Review of Climate Change Impacts to Oil Sector Critical Services and Suggested Recommendations for Industry Uptake. Infrastructures 2019, 4, 74.

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Katopodis T, Sfetsos A. A Review of Climate Change Impacts to Oil Sector Critical Services and Suggested Recommendations for Industry Uptake. Infrastructures. 2019; 4(4):74.

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Katopodis, Theodoros, and Athanasios Sfetsos. 2019. "A Review of Climate Change Impacts to Oil Sector Critical Services and Suggested Recommendations for Industry Uptake" Infrastructures 4, no. 4: 74.

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