NSU to Host Forum on Oil Spills, Use of Dispersants

Event Brings Together NSU Researchers, Industry and Scientific Experts From Around the World

By MarEx 2014-11-11 13:41:00

Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Oceanographic Center will be hosting a technical forum on the role of dispersants in oil spill response. This forum will bring together officials and experts from such diverse areas as Australia, Europe, South America, Alaska and the Gulf States – all of whom will gather to present the latest scientific and operational information on the use of dispersants to emergency response planners and decision-makers.

The forum will run for three days: Wednesday, Nov. 12 through Friday, Nov. 14 at NSU’s Oceanographic Center, 8000 North Ocean Drive, Hollywood (inside John U. Lloyd State Park.) Speakers will include representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG,) the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA,) the oil industry and academia (including NSU.)

“I’m pleased that NSU and our Oceanographic Center is not only hosting this important discussion, but taking an active part as well,” said Richard Dodge., Ph.D., dean of NSU’s Oceanographic Center and executive director of the National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI.) “Oil spills are going to happen, and while the industry works to limit those possibilities, we must be able to respond appropriately if a crisis arises – and do so with the least impact on the environment as possible.”

The forum is sponsored by Clean Caribbean & Americas (CCA) of Fort Lauderdale, and Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) headquartered in Southampton, England.  These two non-profit companies were among many that responded to the Gulf of Mexico Deep Water Horizon spill, and subsequently merged to form a global oil spill response organization.  The goal of the forum is to lay a foundation of knowledge and create a framework for analysis and decision-making for the use of dispersants in oil spill response.

In combatting the 2010 Deep Water Horizon emergency, U.S. government regulators granted responders approval to spray dispersant on surface oil slicks and inject dispersants at the wellhead nearly 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.  To those closely involved in the response, the use of dispersants prevented most of the oil from the well blowout from reaching the Gulf coast and damaging coastal resources. 

Dispersants have been used for decades in oil spill response, but their exact purpose and the science behind their use are little known and understood outside the community of scientists, government regulators, the oil industry and responders.  Consequently, public stakeholders’ view of dispersants is usually colored by a high degree of emotionalism, misconception, and occasionally even misinformation, all of which serve to undermine the common goal to minimize the environmental impacts of an oil spill.

Modern oil spill contingency planning and oil spill response operations must weigh the feasibility and effectiveness of all response options.  This inevitably leads to assessing the role of dispersants in preparedness and response. 

“Dispersants are not the answer to every oil spill, but the lack of understanding and knowledge on their use can be a great obstacle to responding to spills effectively,” said Paul Schuler, President of CCA. “We hope that the research project and technical forum that we are sponsoring will add to the body of knowledge and understanding of this important response method.”


In addition to the Technical Forum on Dispersants, Clean Caribbean & Americas is sponsoring a multi-year laboratory research project on the effects of oil and dispersed oil on coral, which will be conducted at NSU’s Oceanographic Center – one of the few institutions in the world with an active coral nursery. 

This type of research is not new to Dodge. He was one of the principal researchers in a seminal field study in Panama in 1984 which studied the effects of oil and dispersed oil on tropical marine ecosystems.  Much of the analysis of dispersant use options on coral reefs today stems from this research. 

“The state of the art has advanced much in the decades since the Panama study,” Dodge said. “We seek additional and fundamental knowledge of the effects of oil and dispersed oil on coral reef ecosystems so that best mitigation and cleanup practices can be implemented.”

This research project will be managed by NSU Oceanographic Center Ph.D. candidate Abigail Renegar, and supported by other scientists from NSU, NCRI, Texas A&M University and James Cook University in Australia, as well as scientific support from NOAA and several oil companies.  

“This research will provide new information on the sensitivity of corals to oil and dispersed oil, linking field studies with controlled laboratory experiments that examine a range of possible hydrocarbon exposures,” Renegar said. “What we learn from this study will be essential to decision-making and response should a spill potentially impact coral reefs.”      

Bernhard Riegl, Ph.D., is the NSU faculty principal investigator of the project. He has long been involved in environmental stressors to coral reefs. 

“If we learn how to tackle impacts that we can closely manage and tightly control, such as oil-spills by the use of dispersants, then there is hope that we may also learn how to tackle impacts that are much harder to manage – such as those imposed by human population pressure and climate change,” said Riegl, who is also the associate director of NSU’s NCRI. 



·         8:50 a.m. – The Problem & The Challenge: Dispersants in Oil Spill Response: Realities, Myths & Misconceptions, Paul Schuler, Oil Spill Response Limited

·         9:15 a.m. – The Chemistry, Physics & Fates of Spilled Oil & Dispersed Oil (Sea Surface), Victoria Broje, Ph.D., Shell

·         9:45 a.m. – Subsea Spills & Subsea Dispersant Injection, Tom Coolbaugh, Ph.D., ExxonMobil

·         10:45 a.m. –  TROPICS Field Study (1984): Relative Effects of Oil & Dispersed Oil on Tropical Ecosystems, Richard Dodge, Ph.D., NSU Oceanographic Center, NCRI

·         11 a.m. – Toxicology & the Biological Effects of Oil & Dispersed Oil on Marine & Coastal Ecosystems, Gary Shigenaka, Ph.D., NOAA

·         11:30 a.m. – Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (NEBA) & Response Trade-offs, Gina Coehlo, Ph.D., Scientist-Consultant

·         Noon – International Maritime Organization (IMO) Dispersant Decision-making Template, Francois Merlin, Ph.D., Centre de Documentation, de Recherche et d’Expérimentations sur les pollutions accidentelles des Eaux (CEDRE)

·         1:15 p.m. – The 2010 Gulf of Mexico Spill Response & (Preliminary) 4 Year Outcome, Charlie Henry, Director, NOAA

·         1:45 p.m. – Aerial & Vessel Dispersants Preparedness & Operations Guide, Charlie Huber, Deepwater Horizon Dispersant Operations Manager


·         2:15 p.m. – Developing U.S. Dispersant Policy: The Stakeholder Collaboration Process, Scott Lundgren, USCG, Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy

·         3:15 p.m. – Subsea Intervention Approval Process & Procedures, Roger Scheuermann, Helix Well Containment Group (HWCG)

·         3:30 p.m. – Subsea Dispersant NEBA & Monitoring, Gina Coelho, Ph.D., Scientist-Consultant

·         3:45 p.m. – Dispersant Use Policies Around the World, Kelly Reynolds, International Tanker Owners Pollution Federations (ITOPF)

·         4:15 p.m. – NSUOC Coral Toxicity Threshold Study,  Abigail Renegar, Ph.D. Candidate, M.S., NSU Oceanographic Center

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