Sunlight Reduces Effectiveness of Dispersants Used in Oil Spills

A plane releases chemical dispersant to break up an oil slick on the water surface below. Captions and Photo source: NOAA


Two new studies have shown that sunlight transforms oil on the ocean surface more significantly and quickly than previously thought. The phenomenon considerably limits the effectiveness of chemical dispersants, which are during oil spills to break up floating oil and reduce the amount of oil that reaches coastlines.

A research team led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found that sunlight chemically alters crude oil floating on the sea surface within hours or days. In a follow-up study the team reported that sunlight changes oil into different compounds that dispersants cannot easily break up. The results of these two studies could affect how responders decide when, where, and how to use dispersants…

Read Full Article; WHOI (04-25-2018)

Gulf Spill oil dispersants associated with health symptoms in cleanup workers, study; Science Daily (09-19-2017)

Oil Dispersant Used in Gulf Oil Spill Causes Lung and Gill Injuries to Humans and Aquatic Animals, University of Alabama at Birmingham; 04-06-2015

First Study of Dispersants in Gulf Spill Suggests a Prolonged Deepwater Fate (01-27-2011)
To combat Deepwater Horizon oil spill, nearly 800,000 gallons of chemical dispersant were injected directly into the oil and gas flow coming out of the wellhead. Scientists begin to assess and to raise questions about what impact the deep-water residue of oil and dispersant, might have had on environment and marine life in the Gulf…

Gulf Oil Spill: Oil-Dispersing Chemicals Had Little Effect On Oil Surfacing, Science Daily (12-04-2012)
As the Deepwater Horizon incident unfolded, in an effort to prevent the oil from coming to the surface and reaching coastal and marsh ecosystems, chemical dispersants were injected at the wellhead. A new study is the first to examine the effects of the use of unprecedented quantities of dispersants, over such a prolonged period of time in the deep ocean…

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