Assessment of chemical dispersant effectiveness in a wave tank under regular non-breaking and breaking wave conditions

Zhengkai Li, Kenneth Lee, Thomas King, Michel C. Boufadel, Albert D. Venosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Current chemical dispersant effectiveness tests for product selection are commonly performed with bench-scale testing apparatus. However, for the assessment of oil dispersant effectiveness under real sea state conditions, test protocols are required to have hydrodynamic conditions closer to the natural environment, including transport and dilution effects. To achieve this goal, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designed and constructed a wave tank system to study chemical dispersant effectiveness under controlled mixing energy conditions (regular non-breaking, spilling breaking, and plunging breaking waves). Quantification of oil dispersant effectiveness was based on observed changes in dispersed oil concentrations and oil-droplet size distribution. The study results quantitatively demonstrated that total dispersed oil concentration and breakup kinetics of oil droplets in the water column were strongly dependent on the presence of chemical dispersants and the influence of breaking waves. These data on the effectiveness of dispersants as a function of sea state will have significant implications in the drafting of future operational guidelines for dispersant use at sea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)903-912
Number of pages10
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


  • Breaking waves
  • Dispersants
  • Droplet size distribution
  • Energy dissipation rate
  • Oil spill


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