SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1995

Dispersant Effectiveness: Studies into the Causes of Effectiveness Variations


Effectiveness, a key issue of using dispersants, is affected by many interrelated factors. The principal factors involved are the oil composition, dispersant formulation, sea surface turbulence and dispersant quantity.

Oil composition is a very strong determinant. Current dispersant formulation effectiveness correlates strongly with the amount of saturate component in the oil. The other components of the oil, the asphaltenes, resins or polars and aromatic fractions show a negative correlation with the dispersant effectiveness. Viscosity is also a predictor of dispersant effectiveness and may have an effect because it is in turn determined by oil composition. Dispersant composition is significant and interacts with oil composition. Dispersants show high effectiveness at HLB values near 10.

Sea turbulence strongly affects dispersant effectiveness. Effectiveness rises with increasing turbulence to a maximum value. Effectiveness for current commercial dispersants is gaussian around a peak salinity value. Peak effectiveness is achieved at very high dispersant quantities - at a ratio of 1:5, dispersant-to-oil volume. Dispersant effectiveness for those oils tested and under the conditions measured, is approximately logarithmic with dispersant quantity and will reach about 50% of its peak value at a dispersant to oil ratio of about 1:20 and near zero at a ratio of about 1:50.

Author Information

Fingas, MF
Environmental Technology Centre, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Kyle, D
Tennyson, E
Minerals Management Service, Herndon, Virginia, U.S.A.
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Developed by Committee: F20
Pages: 92–132
DOI: 10.1520/STP15389S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5309-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-1999-4