SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1995

Effectiveness of Chemical Dispersants under Breaking Wave Conditions


A study is described in which the effectiveness of Corexit 9527 on Alaskan North Slope crude oil was assessed by conducting laboratory and wave basin tests. Three laboratory dispersant test systems were used: the MNS, Labofina and EXDET procedures. It was concluded that for the present purposes the EXDET system was most suitable, and it was used for subsequent tests. The dependence of effectiveness on dispersant to oil ratio, extent of weathering, temperature, water salinity, energy level and the presence of emulsified water (mousse) were determined.

The results were used to guide a subsequent program of tests at the Esso Resources Canada Ltd. Wave Basin in Calgary in which the effectiveness was determined under breaking wave conditions. From the results a correlating equation was developed to express effectiveness as a function of dispersant to oil ratio and delay time between dispersant application and the onset of breaking waves. Significant quantities of oil were dispersed under breaking wave conditions, even at what are conventionally regarded as low dispersant to oil ratios.

The implications of the results for assessing the actual and potential extent of chemical dispersion following the EXXON VALDEZ spill in March 1989 are discussed. Assuming that the dispersion efficiencies from the wave basin could have been achieved at the incident, it is believed that because of the onset of the storm with breaking wave conditions some 60 hours after the grounding, approximately 38% of the spilled oil could have been dispersed had available dispersants been applied to the spilled oil in the days following the grounding.

Author Information

Mackay, D
University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Developed by Committee: F20
Pages: 310–340
DOI: 10.1520/STP15398S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5309-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-1999-4