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Once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a bigger can.

Zymurgy's First Law of Evolving Systems Dynamics

The Obsolete Oil Spill Response Toolbox

The oil industry, including product transport, rely on a set of tools for oil spill response which were largely developed in the 1960s when oil wells were on land, in relatively temperate environments to produce sweet, light crude oils ('conventional oil'). That is no longer the world where oil is being sought and produced. Unfortunately, the toolbox which was never especially effective is now totally inadequate for dealing with the current oil exploration in extreme locations and non-conventional crude oils.

Below, we give a brief review of the industry's current preferred toolbox, and why it needs to be replaced by innovative products which actually work without causing bigger problems as a consequence.

Dispersants
o Dispersants break up the oil drops into smaller droplets, which makes the oil more bioavailable to living organisms
o Up to 52 times more toxic than untreated oil
o Should NOT be used in fresh water, on heavy oils or in cold water (below 15 C)
o Application of Corexit EC9500A (and dispersants generally) does not remove oil from the environment (only disperses it into the water column and to the water bottom and sediments, increasing exposure for plankton, fish and shellfish)
o Application of Corexit EC9500A (and dispersants generally) does not provide a Net Environmental Benefit (ultimately, it makes the oil MORE toxic to marine life)
o Application of Corexit EC9500A (and dispersants generally) hurts the living microbes that actually break down the oil
o Application of Corexit EC9500A (and dispersants generally) does not work well in cold temperatures, like the waters of the Scotian Shelf and off Newfoundland
o Application of Corexit EC9500A (and dispersants generally) does not work well on heavy (viscous) oils
o Application of Corexit EC9500A (and dispersants generally) is not cost effective
o Application of Corexit EC9500A (and dispersants generally) is only effective for a short time
o There are better options available today for responding to marine oil spills

Absorbents
o One-time use
o Oil cannot be extracted for subsequent use
o Does not reduce the toxicity of the oil
o Expands the volume of toxic waste by up to 50 times
o May not pick up all of heavy oils

Herding and skimming
o Booms do not contain oil effectively in waves (> 0.3 m) or currents (> 0.3 to 1 knots) or in medium winds (> 5.5 m/s 12 mph 19 kph)
o Disk brush drum and vacuum skimmers are small, slow, finicky and prone to breakdown
o Requires a lot of close contact handling

In situ burning
o Requires calm waters (no waves, no current, very low winds)
o Requires accelerants to heat the oil enough to burn
o Requires fire-proof booms to contain fire spread
o Turns oil pollution into air pollution & soot


From FAST to SLO
The Obsolete Toolbox
World Pipelines magazine article on Social Licence to Operate
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