Effects of Oil Properties and Slick Thickness on Dispersant Field Effectiveness and Oil Fate

  • Marieke Zeinstra-HelfrichEmail author
  • Albertinka J. Murk


One of the available oil spill response options is to enhance the natural dispersion process by the addition of dispersants known as chemical dispersion. An informed decision for such response requires insight about the added effects of treatment with dispersants on the oil slick fate. To provide such insight, a mathematical model for oil slick elongation as a result of dispersion was developed including the effects of oil viscosity, dispersed oil droplet sizes, and oil layer thickness. This chapter briefly revisits this oil slick elongation model to explain the consequences of different key parameters on dispersion, vertical droplet size distribution, formation of a comet-like tail and oil slick (dis)appearance, as well as the implications of the results for future decision-making. The model outcomes indicate that wind speed is a very dominant factor in dispersion and subsequent slick behavior. More surprising, the influence of oil type on the elongation process is only limited. The increased density of the high-viscosity oil types allows larger droplets to be stably suspended. High-viscosity oil, however, was found to benefit less from a decrease in interfacial tension than a low-viscosity oil. Weighing estimated risks for adverse effects in the water column with a reduced surface oil presence allows for future dispersant decisions based on a thorough Spill Impact Mitigation Analysis (SIMA).


Dispersion Dispersant Spill modelling Wind speed Oil type 



This research was made possible by a from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative/C-IMAGE. Data are publicly available through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information and Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) at (doi:10.7266/n7-8hmm-kx37).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marieke Zeinstra-Helfrich
    • 1
    Email author
  • Albertinka J. Murk
    • 2
  1. 1.NHL Stenden University of Applied SciencesLeeuwardenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Wageningen University, Marine Animal Ecology GroupWageningenThe Netherlands

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