Estimating the usefulness of chemical dispersant to treat surface spills of oil sands products

Thomas King, Brian Robinson, Scott Ryan, Kenneth Lee, Michel Boufadel, Jason Clyburne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This study examines the use of chemical dispersant to treat an oil spill after the initial release. The natural and chemically enhanced dispersion of four oil products (dilbit, dilynbit, synbit and conventional crude) were investigated in a wave tank. Experiments were conducted in spring and summer to capture the impact of temperature, and the conditions in the tank were of breaking waves with a wave height of 0.4 m. The results showed that natural dispersion effectiveness (DE) was less than 10%. But the application of dispersant increased the DE by an order of magnitude with a statistically significant level (p < 0.05). Season (spring versus summer) had an effect on chemical DE of all oils, except for the conventional oil. Thus, the DE of dilbit products is highly dependent on the season/temperature. A model was fitted to the DE as a function of oil viscosity for the chemically dispersed oil, and the correlation was found to be very good. The model was then combined with a previous model compiled by the author predicting oil viscosity as a function of time, to produce a model that predicts the DE as function of time. Such a relation could be used for responders tackling oil spills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number128
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 6 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering


  • AccessWestern Blend (condensate/bitumen-dilbit)
  • Dispersant
  • Dispersion effectiveness (DE)
  • Heidrun
  • Synthetic Bitumen (synthetic crude/bitumen-Synbit)
  • Wave tank
  • Western Canadian Select (condensate mixed with synthetic crude/bitumen-dilsynbit)


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