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Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects (2005)

Chapter: Front Matter

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
×

OIL SPILL DISPERSANTS

EFFICACY AND EFFECTS

Committee on Understanding Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects

Ocean Studies Board

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This study was supported by a contract between the National Academies and the following entities: Contract/Grant No. 50-DGNA-1-90024 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Contract/Grant No. 0103PO73652 from the Minerals Management Service and the U.S. Coast Guard, and Contract/Grant No. 2003-100861 from the American Petroleum Institute. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.

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Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 2005931459

Additional copies of this report are available from the
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Copyright 2005 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine


The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.


The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.


The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.


The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council

www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
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COMMITTEE ON UNDERSTANDING OIL SPILL DISPERSANTS: EFFICACY AND EFFECTS

JACQUELINE MICHEL, Chair,

Research Planning, Inc., New Orleans, Louisiana

E. ERIC ADAMS,

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

YVONNE ADDASSI,

California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento

TOM COPELAND, Commercial Fisherman (retired),

Everson, Washington

MARK GREELEY,

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

BELA JAMES,

Shell Global Solutions, Houston, Texas

BETH MCGEE,

Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Annapolis, Maryland

CARYS MITCHELMORE,

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Solomons

YASUO ONISHI,

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington

JAMES PAYNE,

Payne Environmental Consultants, Inc., Encinitas, California

DAVID SALT,

Oil Spill Response Limited, Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom

BRIAN WRENN,

Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

Staff

DAN WALKER, Study Director

SARAH CAPOTE, Senior Program Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
×

OCEAN STUDIES BOARD

SHIRLEY A. POMPONI, Chair,

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, Fort Pierce, Florida

LEE G. ANDERSON,

University of Delaware, Newark

WHITLOW AU,

University of Hawaii at Manoa

ROBERT B. DITTON,

Texas A&M University, College Station

ROBERT DUCE,

Texas A&M University, College Station

MARY (MISSY) H. FEELEY,

ExxonMobil Exploration Company, Houston, Texas

PAUL G. GAFFNEY II,

Monmouth University, Long Branch, New Jersey

HOLLY GREENING,

Tampa Bay National Estuary Program, St. Petersburg, Florida

STANLEY R. HART,

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts

CYNTHIA M. JONES,

Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia

WILLIAM A. KUPERMAN,

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

WILLIAM F. MARCUSON III,

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (retired), Vicksburg, Mississippi

JACQUELINE MICHEL,

Research Planning, Inc., New Orleans, Louisiana

FRANK E. MULLER-KARGER,

University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

JOAN OLTMAN-SHAY,

NorthWest Research Associates, Inc., Bellevue, Washington

ROBERT T. PAINE,

University of Washington, Seattle

S. GEORGE H. PHILANDER,

Princeton University, New Jersey

RAYMOND W. SCHMITT,

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachussets

FRED N. SPIESS,

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California

DANIEL SUMAN,

Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Florida

Staff

SUSAN ROBERTS, Director

DAN WALKER, Scholar

JENNIFER MERRILL, Senior Program Officer

CHRISTINE BLACKBURN, Program Officer

ALAN B. SIELEN, Visiting Scholar

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
×

ANDREAS SOHRE, Financial Associate

SHIREL SMITH, Administrative Coordinator

JODI BACHIM, Research Associate

NANCY CAPUTO, Research Associate

SARAH CAPOTE, Senior Program Assistant

PHIL LONG, Program Assistant

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
×

Preface

The use of chemical dispersants as an oil spill countermeasure in the United States has long been controversial. In the late 1980s, the National Research Council was asked to conduct a study to “assess the state of knowledge and practice about the use of dispersants in responding to open-ocean spills.” The resulting report, published in 1989, became an important summary of the effectiveness and possible impacts of dispersants and dispersed oil. In the early 1990s, there was a major initiative to get pre-approval for dispersant use in open waters, generally outside of 3 nautical miles and/or in water depths greater than 10 meters, and many regions have such pre-approval plans in place. Dispersants have not, however, been used frequently, with one of the limitations being the need to mobilize available dispersant and application equipment within the narrow (1–2 days) window of opportunity during which dispersants are most effective.

In the late 1990s, the U.S. Coast Guard began to review the regulatory planning requirements for dispersant use in vessel response plans, resulting in a proposed rulemaking that will require the availability of dispersants and equipment where dispersant use has been pre-approved. Anticipating that the ready availability of dispersants would lead to increased desire to use dispersants at all types of spills, the U.S. Coast Guard also began conducting workshops to assist planners in comparing the ecological consequences of response options, especially in nearshore or estuarine situations. During these workshops, it became clear that there were significant gaps in the knowledge needed to make sound decisions regarding the use of dispersant in areas that were nearshore, shallow, or with

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
×

restricted flushing rates. In these areas, the simplifying assumptions that were used in the risk analysis for open-water setting were insufficient.

Realizing that there are limited funds to support oil spill research in general, and dispersant use in particular, the Minerals Management Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, and American Petroleum Institute requested that the National Research Council review and evaluate the existing and ongoing research, and make recommendations on the information needed to support risk-based decisionmaking.

A committee of twelve scientists and responders, representing a wide range of technical backgrounds, was appointed by the National Research Council to prepare the requested report. Taking to heart the emphasis on risk-based decisionmaking, the committee decided to frame its assessment and recommendations around the questions that planners and responders must answer when faced with the decision as to whether or not dispersants should be used at a given spill. This approach, I believe, has improved the value of the study by linking the recommended research to the needs of decisionmakers.

I wish to thank the committee members for their dedication and hard work during the preparation of the report. They conducted a fresh and thorough review of the existing and ongoing research that should make the report a significant contribution to understanding the current knowledge on the effectiveness and effects of dispersants. The Study Director, Dr. Dan Walker, did an outstanding job of keeping the committee focused on the statement of task and the importance of the decision-making framework approach to the report. I would like to personally thank him for his insight, technical knowledge, and professionalism. The committee members wish to especially thank the hard work of Ms. Sarah Capote who greatly helped the committee develop what I think is a high-quality final report. The sponsors are to be commended for their vision in providing funding for this study—a study that will likely influence both the direction of dispersant-related research and the actual use of dispersants as an oil spill countermeasure in the coming years.


Jacqueline Michel, Chair

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
×

Acknowledgments

This report was greatly enhanced by the participants of the three workshops held as part of this study. The committee would first like to acknowledge the efforts of those who gave presentations at meetings. These talks helped set the stage for fruitful discussions in the closed sessions that followed.


Don Aurand, Ecosystems Management & Associates

Mace Barron, Environmental Protection Agency

C.J. Beegle-Krause, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

James Clark, ExxonMobil

Merv Fingas, Environment Canada

Deborah French-McCay, Applied Science Associates, Inc.

Jerry Galt, Genwest Sytems, Inc.

Charlie Henry, NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator for the Gulf of Mexico

Alun Lewis, Oil Spill Consultant

Carol-Ann Manen, NOAA

Joe Mullin, Minerals Management Service

Bob Pond, U.S. Coast Guard

Robin Rorick, American Petroleum Institute

Michael Singer, University of California-Davis

Al Venosa, Environmental Protection Agency

Glen Watabayashi, NOAA

Jim Weaver, Environmental Protection Agency

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
×

The committee is also grateful to a number of people who provided important discussion and/or material for this report: Alan Allen (Spiltec), Randy Belore (S.L. Ross), James Clark (ExxonMobil), Per Daling (SINTEF), Don Davis (Louisiana State University), Dave DeVitis (Ohmsett Site Manager), Dave Evans (Environmental Protection Agency), Merv Fingas (Environment Canada), R. Lloyd Gamble (Environment Canada), Julien Guyomarch (Cedre), Kurt Hansen (U.S. Coast Guard), Charlie Henry (NOAA), Robin Jamail (Texas General Land Office), Jim Lane (Minerals Management Service), Ken Lee (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography), Carol-Ann Manen (NOAA), Joseph Mullin (Minerals Management Service), Leslie Pearson (Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation), Robin Rorick (American Petroleum Institute), and Mike Sowby (California Department of Fish and Game Office of Spill Prevention and Response).

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:


Mace Barron, Environmental Protection Agency, Gulf Breeze, Florida

James Bonner, Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi

James Clark, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, Fairfax, Virginia

Merv Fingas, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ontario

Robert “Buzz” Martin, Texas General Land Office, Austin

Judy McDowell, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Robert Paine, University of Washington, Seattle

Mark Reed, SINTEF, Trondheim, Norway

Susan Saupe, Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council, Kenai, Alaska


Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Mahlon “Chuck” Kennicutt, Texas A&M University, College Station. Appointed

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
×

by the Divison on Earth and Life Studies, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
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D.3  Are Sufficient Chemical Response Assets Available to Treat the Spill?,

 

47

   

D.4  Are the Environmental Conditions Conducive to the Successful Application of Dispersant and Its Effectiveness?,

 

48

   

D.5  Will the Effective Use of Dispersants Reduce the Impacts of the Spill to Shoreline and Water Surface Resources without Significantly Increasing Impacts to Water-Column and Benthic Resources?,

 

48

   

 Overall,

 

50

3

 

DISPERSANT-OIL INTERACTIONS AND EFFECTIVENESS TESTING

 

51

   

 Commercial Dispersant Products Available for Use in U.S. Waters,

 

52

   

 The Physical Chemistry of Dispersant-Oil Interactions and the Energy Requirements for Effective Oil-Droplet Entrainment and Dispersion,

 

56

   

 Factors That Affect the Oil/Dispersant Interaction—The Window of Opportunity as Controlled by Oil Chemistry and Weathering State,

 

63

   

 Weather Considerations and the Window of Opportunity,

 

67

   

 History of Dispersant Use in the United States,

 

67

   

 T/V Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS), Prince William Sound, Alaska (1989),

 

68

   

 Gulf of Mexico (1999 to 2004),

 

69

   

 Effectiveness Testing and Effectiveness Issues,

 

71

   

 Objectives of Effectiveness Testing,

 

73

   

 Design of Effectiveness Tests,

 

75

   

 Bench-Scale Tests,

 

82

   

 Wave Tanks,

 

90

   

 Field Studies,

 

105

   

 Effectiveness Testing Using Spills of Opportunity,

 

118

   

 Monitoring Dispersant Use During Actual Spills,

 

124

   

 Developing Adequate Understanding of Dispersant Effectiveness to Support Decisionmaking,

 

131

4

 

TRANSPORT AND FATE

 

135

   

 Transport Processes,

 

135

   

 Surface Transport,

 

136

   

 Vertical Transport,

 

139

   

 Horizontal Subsurface Transport,

 

141

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2005. Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11283.
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 Fate and Weathering,

 

144

   

 Surface Oil Evaporation Weathering,

 

145

   

 Photooxidation,

 

149

   

 Water-in-Oil Emulsification,

 

151

   

 Fate of Physically and Chemically Entrained Oil Droplets in the Water Column,

 

157

   

 Biodegradation,

 

165

   

 Models,

 

180

   

 Sensitivity Study,

 

181

   

 Applying Knowledge about the Transport and Fate of Dispersed Oil to Support Decisionmaking,

 

187

   

 Fate and Weathering of Oil,

 

187

5

 

TOXICOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF DISPERSANTS AND DISPERSED OIL

 

193

   

 Testing Procedures for Dispersant and Dispersed Oil Toxicity,

 

198

   

 Toxicity Tests,

 

198

   

 Mesocosms,

 

206

   

 Dispersant Toxicity,

 

207

   

 Toxicity of Dispersed Oil,

 

215

   

 Route of Exposure,

 

216

   

 Mode of Action,

 

219

   

 Photoenhanced Toxicity,

 

223

   

 Effects on Biological Communities,

 

231

   

 Water-Column Organisms,

 

231

   

 Intertidal and Subtidal Habitats,

 

250

   

 Wildlife,

 

254

   

 Microbial Communities,

 

257

   

 Coral Reefs,

 

259

   

 Mangroves,

 

270

   

 Improving the Use of Information about Effects in Decisionmaking,

 

271

6

 

RESEARCH PRIORITIES TO SUPPORT DISPERSANT USE DECISIONMAKING

 

277

   

D.1  Will Mechanical Response Be Sufficient?,

 

280

   

D.2  Is the Spilled Oil or Refined Product Known to Be Dispersible?,

 

280

   

D.3  Are Sufficient Chemical Response Assets Available to Treat the Spill?,

 

282

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Approximately 3 million gallons of oil or refined petroleum products are spilled into U.S. waters every year. Oil dispersants (chemical agents such as surfactants, solvents, and other compounds) are used to reduce the effect of oil spills by changing the chemical and physical properties of the oil. By enhancing the amount of oil that physically mixes into the water, dispersants can reduce the potential that a surface slick will contaminate shoreline habitats. Although called for in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 as a tool for minimizing the impact of oil spills, the use of chemical dispersants has long been controversial. This book reviews the adequacy of existing information and ongoing research regarding the effectiveness of dispersants as an oil spill response technique, as well as the effect of dispersed oil on marine and coastal ecosystems. Oil Spill Dispersants also includes recommended steps for policy makers faced with making hard choices regarding the use of dispersants as part of spill contingency planning efforts or during actual spills.

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