Chemical Treating Agents for Oil Spill Response—Recent Research Results

by Mervin F. Fingas, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Canada,
Edward J. Tennyson, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Canada,

Abstract: Laboratory effectiveness tests have been developed for four classes of spill-treating agents; solidifiers, demulsifying agents, surface-washing agents and dispersants. Currently-available treating agents in these four categories have been tested for effectiveness. These results are presented. Solidifiers or gelling agents solidify oil. Tests show that these require a large amount of agent to solidify oil - ranging between 16% by weight, to over 200%. Demulsifiers or emulsion breakers prevent or reverse the formation of water-in-oil emulsions. A newly-developed effectiveness test shows that only one product is highly effective, however many products will work, but require large amounts of spill-treating agent. Surfactant-containing materials are of two types, surface-washing agents and dispersants. Testing has shown that an agent that is a good dispersant is conversely a poor surface-washing agent, and vice versa. Tests of surface-washing agents show that only a few agents have effectiveness of 25 to 40%, where this effectiveness is the percentage of oil removed from a test surface. Results using the 'swirling flask' test for dispersant effectiveness are reported. Heavy oils show effectiveness values of about 1%, medium crudes of about 10%, light crude oils of about 30% and very light oils of about 90%.

Subject Headings: Aging (material) | Solidification | Mixtures | Chemical treatment | Hazardous materials spills | Water pollution | Water treatment | Laboratory tests

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