Oil Spill Research to Measure Dispersant Effectiveness
Highlighting research projects funded by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), engineer Suzanne Chang discussed 13 recently completed and ongoing studies Tuesday at the Seventh Technology Workshop for Oil Spill Response.
Chang described one study that seeks to, “develop a novel ultrasonic scatter method to measure the droplet size of dispersed oil to monitor the efficacy of dispersant application.” Chang explained that, “acoustic signals respond to changes in oil droplet sizes.”
The ultimate goal of the research is to develop a way to measure the effectiveness of subsea dispersant applications. Chang cautioned that there are many variables that have to be considered when properly calibrating such techniques, including whether or not the crude oil being measured is in the presence of varying amounts of natural gas.
“Subsea dispersants were used operationally for the first time during the response to the Macondo well blowout. The response community was very interested in improving ways to determine the effectiveness of such approaches. When the concept of using acoustics to measure effectiveness came to BSEE’s attention, it was something we determined was worth investigating,” Chang said. She added that preliminary results suggest there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the detection methodology.
The focus of BSEE-sponsored research is to encourage new and innovative ways to improve oil spill response capabilities from proof of concept through successive stages of technology development, maturity, and readiness for deployment during actual oil spills.