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Oil Spill Treatment Product Testing Scheme – Research and development activities from the 2007 scheme review - ME1309


The UK is an island nation with a long coastline and as such the UK government recognises the importance of shipping to the economic health and international standing of the country. The levels of marine traffic in UK waters is therefore high and with this comes the inevitable threat from oil and chemical spillages as a result of shipping accidents and the consequent threat to marine resources (biological, physical and amenity). These threats have been realised on many occasions in the past during such incidents as those involving the Sea Empress or the MSC Napoli.
When these inevitable incidents do occur the UK has a responsibility to ensure that response procedures are in place to enable prompt action to be taken to mitigate the likely environmental impacts of, for example, spilled oil.

Primary amongst the options available in the event of spills are the use of a range of oil spill treatment products (e.g. chemical dispersants, absorbents, surface cleaners etc.). If used appropriately these products offer vital tools to the responders in their efforts to minimise impact and clean up after spills. However, the deliberate addition of chemical products into the marine environment requires regulation under the Food and Environment Protection Act (FEPA 1985) and must have an approval before they can be used. In order to ensure that only the most efficient and environmentally acceptable products are used in UK waters the government oversees an oil spill testing and approval scheme designed to maintain an `approved list` of products for use in UK (and adopted by many other nations) waters.

The UK Scheme and the 2007 Review
The UK oil spill product approval scheme has been established for over 30 years and is recognised as one of the most comprehensive and effective schemes of its type. It is designed to enable the assessment of a product on the basis of efficiency (dispersants only) and toxicity (all products). The standard toxicity assessment procedure comprises two tests, i) the Sea Test and ii) the Rocky Shore Test.
In order to ensure that the testing and approval process and techniques remain `fit for purpose` in light of a changing shipping and response industry the UK government conducts periodic public consultation and review of the process. The most recent of these reviews was conducted and completed in 2007. Its remit was to canvas expert opinion from a broad spectrum of stakeholders on a wide range of testing and approval issues raised by stakeholders and Defra/MFA`s scientific advisors, Cefas.

The Recommendations
The review made a number of recommendations. However, the two primary recommendations that would require research to implement and that would result in amendments to the statutory scheme were:
i) In recognition of the increased likelihood of fuel oil or heavy oil spills it was recommended that a new test was developed to enable the toxicity testing of products designed for use on these types of oil; and
ii) In recognition of data that provide strong evidence that dispersant products elicit higher toxicity in the Sea Test when added as a Type 3 (neat) as opposed to a Type 2 (water diluted) it was recommended that the practice to approve products as type 2/3 on the basis of a type 2 test only should cease. Further research will be required to establish the type 2 vs. type 3 toxicity differences and to establish new pass/fail criteria for each test type.

This Proposal
In light of these recommendations this research proposal aims to:
i) Develop and validate a new test procedure (based on the Sea Test premise) for the approval of products for use on Heavy Oils.
ii) Investigate the relationship of toxicity in the Sea Test when dispersants are added as type 2 or 3. Establish new separate pass/fail assessment criteria for dispersant approval for these two usage types.
Project Documents
• Final Report : ME1309: Final Report Oil Spill Treatment Product Testing Scheme – Research and development activities from the 2007 scheme review   (227k)
• Final Report : ME1309: Final Report Oil Spill Treatment Product Testing Scheme – Research and development activities from the 2007 scheme review   (212k)
• Two Page Summary : Do we have the right testing procedures on place for oil spill dispersants?   (246k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2008

To: 2010

Cost: £57,863
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Diffuse Pollution              
Environmental Protection              
Fields of Study
Environmental Protection - Marine