Dispersant Testing Under Realistic Conditions

At a Glance

Dispersion of oil using either chemical or mineral additives (dispersants) can be an effective way to enhance the natural biodegradation process to remove spilled oil from marine environments. Research over several decades has shown that when applied properly, these additives can be as effective in near-freezing waters as they are in temperate waters.  In many cases – including in the Arctic – dispersants could be the best response option to treat an oil spill before it has spread, broken apart, impacted marine mammals and birds, or become stranded in sensitive environments.

The use of dispersants during an oil spill response can offer higher encounter rates, greater effectiveness, lower manpower requirements, and better responder safety than mechanical responses. A new approach – dispersant injection for well-control events – provides an additional tool that enhances contingency planning for offshore operations.

The Joint Industry Programme’s (JIP) dispersants technical working group has scoped and contracted two projects designed to further enhance the industry’s understanding of dispersant efficacy in ice. This fact sheet describes the objectives and scope of work for Project 2, “Dispersant Testing Under Realistic Conditions.”

This fact sheet describes the objectives and scope of work for Project 2, “Dispersant Testing under Realistic Conditions.”

Dispersants at a Glance

  • Oil biodegrades in temperatures found in Arctic waters.
  • Arctic organisms are no more sensitive to dispersants or dispersed oil than temperate organisms.

In open drift ice conditions, waves may be strong enough to initiate the chemical dispersion of oil. In more dense ice conditions, the energy provided by a storm or from the propeller wash of a ship will be adequate.

Dispersants can minimize the impacts of an oil spill by:

  • Enhancing removal of oil from the environment through biodegradation
  • Minimizing the impact of surface slicks on marine mammals and birds
  • Preventing oil from reaching sensitive shorelines