Dr Karen Purnell
Article published in The Swedish Club Letter 1-2002, pp.16-17
The subject of oil spill dispersants has attracted greater attention in recent years as more countries have sought to develop legislation permitting their use. Claims about the improved effectiveness of 'new generation' dispersants coupled with concern about possible toxic effects have created a confused and emotionally charged arena in which to debate this topic. On occasion, potential spillers have been accused of trying to promote dispersant use because it is seen as a convenient 'out of sight, out of mind' alternative to mechanical recovery. However, the benefit of the appropriate use of dispersants was clearly demonstrated during the response to the 'SEA EMPRESS' incident in 1996. In this case, it was estimated that chemical dispersants prevented at least 17,000 tonnes of crude oil from hitting the environmentally sensitive coastline of south-west Wales.
ITOPF regularly receives questions on the subject of dispersant usage from our ship-owning members and from government and industry responders all over the world. Some of the more commonly asked questions are addressed in this article.