National Academies Press: OpenBook

The Use of Dispersants in Marine Oil Spill Response (2019)


Suggested Citation:"APPENDIX B: DISCLOSURE OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. The Use of Dispersants in Marine Oil Spill Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25161.
Page 310
Suggested Citation:"APPENDIX B: DISCLOSURE OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. The Use of Dispersants in Marine Oil Spill Response. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25161.
Page 311

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APPENDIX B DISCLOSURE OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST In accordance with Section 15 of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the "Academy shall make its best efforts to ensure that no individual appointed to serve on [a] committee has a conflict of interest that is relevant to the functions to be performed, unless such conflict is promptly and publicly disclosed and the Academy determines that the conflict is unavoidable." A conflict of interest refers to an interest, ordinarily financial, of an individual that could be directly affected by the work of the committee. As specified in the Academy's policy and procedures (, an objective determination is made for each provisionally appointed committee member whether or not a conflict of interest exists given the facts of the individual's financial and other interests and the task being undertaken by the committee. A determination of a conflict of interest for an individual is not an assessment of that individual's actual behavior or character or ability to act objectively despite the conflicting interest. We have concluded that for this committee to accomplish the tasks for which it was established, its membership must include among others, at least one person who has current practical experience with and broad expertise in dispersant chemistry and oil spill response strategies in support of global oil and gas industry operations. To meet the need for this expertise and experience, Dr. Thomas Coolbaugh is proposed for appointment to the committee even though we have concluded that he has a conflict of interest in relation to his service on the committee because he is employed by ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company whose financial interests could be affected by the outcome of the study. As described in his biographical summary, Dr. Coolbaugh has over 25 years of experience in scientific research and oil spill response strategies from the perspective of the oil and gas industry. Dr. Coolbaugh has a singular combination of expertise in the chemistry of dispersant- oil mixtures, risk assessment, and practical industry experience in aerial and subsea use of dispersants. We believe that Dr. Coolbaugh can serve effectively as a member of the committee and that the committee can produce an objective report, taking into account the composition of the committee, the work to be performed, and the procedures to be followed in completing the work. After an extensive search, we have been unable to find another individual with the equivalent experience and technical expertise as Dr. Coolbaugh who does not have a similar conflict of interest. Therefore, we have concluded that this conflict is unavoidable. PREPUBLICATION COPY 310

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Whether the result of an oil well blowout, vessel collision or grounding, leaking pipeline, or other incident at sea, each marine oil spill will present unique circumstances and challenges. The oil type and properties, location, time of year, duration of spill, water depth, environmental conditions, affected biomes, potential human community impact, and available resources may vary significantly. Also, each spill may be governed by policy guidelines, such as those set forth in the National Response Plan, Regional Response Plans, or Area Contingency Plans. To respond effectively to the specific conditions presented during an oil spill, spill responders have used a variety of response options—including mechanical recovery of oil using skimmers and booms, in situ burning of oil, monitored natural attenuation of oil, and dispersion of oil by chemical dispersants. Because each response method has advantages and disadvantages, it is important to understand specific scenarios where a net benefit may be achieved by using a particular tool or combination of tools.

This report builds on two previous National Research Council reports on dispersant use to provide a current understanding of the state of science and to inform future marine oil spill response operations. The response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill included an unprecedented use of dispersants via both surface application and subsea injection. The magnitude of the spill stimulated interest and funding for research on oil spill response, and dispersant use in particular. This study assesses the effects and efficacy of dispersants as an oil spill response tool and evaluates trade-offs associated with dispersant use.

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