Field fluorometers for assessing oil dispersion at sea

Charbel Abou-Khalil, Wen Ji, Roger C. Prince, Gina M. Coelho, Tim J. Nedwed, Kenneth Lee, Michel C. Boufadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oil dispersion by the application of chemical dispersants is an important tool in oil spill response, but it is difficult to quantify in the field in a timely fashion that is useful for coordinators and decision-makers. One option is the use of rugged portable field fluorometers that can deliver essentially instantaneous results if access is attainable. The United States Coast Guard has suggested, in their Special Monitoring of Applied Response Technologies (SMART) protocols, that successful oil dispersion can be identified by a five-fold increase in oil fluorescence. Here we test three commercial fluorometers with different excitation/emission windows (SeaOWL, Cyclops 7F–O, and Cyclops 7F-G) that might prove useful for such applications. Results show that they have significantly different dynamic ranges for detecting oil and that using them (or similar instruments) in combination is probably the best option for successfully assessing the effectiveness of oil dispersion operations. Nevertheless, the rapid dilution of dispersed oil means that measurements must be made within an hour or two of dispersion, suggesting that one feasible scenario would be monitoring ship-applied dispersants by vessels following close behind the dispersant application vessel. Alternatively, autonomous submersibles might be pre-deployed to monitor aerial dispersant application, although the logistical challenges in a real spill would be substantial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115143
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


  • Deployable fluorometers
  • Fluorescence spectroscopy
  • Fluorometry
  • Oil spill dispersants
  • Oil spills


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