Port Stanvac refinery MLSSA

The use of chemical dispersants in oil spill clean-ups

December 1, 1992 | Posted in: Oil Spills

Chemical dispersants are usually used on marine oil spills to break up the slick. These dispersants are largely Ethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether. They are so toxic that they may do more harm than to the environment than the oil spill itself. Fauna Rescue spokesperson Doug Reilly said that chemical dispersants could add to the dangers for fish and bird life.

“The problem with dispersant is that often it can cause as much damage as the oil itself,” he said.

Greenpeace Adelaide campaigner Jake Dean was concerned that five spills in SA in the past year had been treated with chemical dispersants.

We can only hope that new dispersants being developed will be better. Manufacturers are starting to introduce new (environmentally safe?) oil dispersants with lower toxicity.

Another new development is a product that cleans structures of fresh or weathered oil but does not disperse or emulsify the oil, thus allowing it to be washed into the water and picked up with skimmers.

Steve Reynolds is the current President of MLSSA and is a long-standing member of the Society. Steve is a keen diver, underwater explorer, photographer and is chief author of the Society's extensive back catalogue of newsletters and journals.

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