Oil Spill Dispersants

Chemical dispersants are substances applied to floating oil slicks that break the oil into smaller droplets that disperse into the water column.

The Council has long endorsed mechanical recovery as the primary tool to clean up an oil spill. Unlike dispersant use, mechanical recovery with booms and skimmers removes oil from the water. Current state and federal laws and regulations hold that dispersants should be used only if it is clear that mechanical cleanup methods such as booming and skimming won’t work.

Position on Dispersant Use:

It is the position of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council that chemical dispersants should not be used on Alaska North Slope crude oil spills in the waters of Prince William Sound and the Exxon Valdez oil spill affected region.

Full, detailed position

See also: Summary of supporting literature (PDF)

In 2022, the Board held a 4-part series of workshops to help members understand the science of how dispersants work; how decision-makers evaluate whether to use dispersants; and the tradeoffs of using, or not using, dispersants.

After careful review and discussion, the resulting position opposed the use of chemical dispersants in Prince William Sound and the region affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The update is evidence-based and adds rationale behind the position.

A report by Nuka Research & Planning summarized the workshops and process for the update: 

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Further materials on the evidence and rationale supporting the position update are currently being finalized by the Council for publication in early 2023.

More on dispersants:

Related documents:

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