Date of Graduation

Spring 5-22-2015

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Kathleen W. Jennings

Second Advisor

Harry L. Allen III

Third Advisor

Maggie Winslow


Chemical dispersants are applied to spilled oil in marine environments when other, less controversial, methods are not adequate for the incident. They are considered to be a response method as opposed to a direct cleanup method, with the intended goals of reducing risk of exposure to sensitive shorelines, reducing environmental injury to surface-dwelling sea birds and marine mammals, and facilitating the biodegradation of spilled oil into the water column.

For this research, both surface and subsurface application of dispersants were evaluated in terms of oil characteristics and volume, and oceanic and atmospheric conditions. More data exists to support the effectiveness of chemical dispersant application at surface water oil slicks as opposed to subsurface plumes. However, since Deepwater Horizon in 2010, there have been several hundred scientific research papers published to study subsurface application of oil spill dispersants.

While the efficacy, ecosystem impacts, and ultimate fate of chemical dispersants and dispersed oil generates conflicting opinions in the scientific community, there are measures that could be taken in order to minimize potential impacts. Research that accounts for variable conditions and ecosystems could be initiated, simulating field conditions in laboratory settings, processing data from Deepwater Horizon, and utilizing current response and monitoring protocols.


For use as a literature reference and review on chemical dispersant application to oil spills in U.S. waters since 1989, potential toxicological effects, and regulatory progressions made in the field.