Dispersants as marine oil spill treating agents: a review on mesoscale tests and field trials

Francois Merlin, Zhiwen Zhu, Min Yang, Bing Chen, Kenneth Lee, Michel C. Boufadel, Lisa Isaacman, Baiyu Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The increasing oil demand and busy waterways highlight the importance of oil spill preparedness and responses. Dispersants attract attention as an effective response tool to manage the impacts of major spill incidents. Despite in-depth laboratory evaluations on the effectiveness of chemical dispersants and their impacts on the transportation and fate of spilled oils, how dispersant works at sea remains a question and calls for the tests with greater realism to validate laboratory results, bring in energy impacts, and evaluate dispersant application equipment. Mesoscale studies and field trials have thus been widely conducted to assist better spill response operations. Such research attempts, however, lack a systematic summary. This study tried to fill the knowledge gaps by introducing the mesoscale facilities developed to advance the understanding of dispersant effectiveness on various sea conditions. An up-to-date overview of mesoscale studies and field trial assessments of dispersant effectiveness has also been conducted. We ended this review by highlighting the importance of public perception and future research needs to promote the approval and application of dispersants in spill incidents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number37
JournalEnvironmental Systems Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Ecological Modeling


  • Climate change
  • Dispersant effectiveness
  • Field trials
  • Mesoscale tests
  • Oil spill response


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