Ongoing Research on Herding Agents for In Situ Burning in Arctic Waters: Studies on Fate and Effects

Janne Fritt-Rasmussen, Kim Gustavson, Susse Wegeberg, Eva Friis Møller, Rasmus Dyrmose Nørregaard, Pia Lassen, Ian Buist, David Cooper, Ken Trudel, Wilson Ulises Rojas Alva, Grunde Jomaas

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    Research on the fate and effects of herding agents used to contain and thicken oil slicks for in situ burning in Arctic waters continues under the auspices of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers Arctic Oil Spill Response Technology – Joint Industry Program (JIP). In 2014/2015 laboratory studies were conducted on the fate and effects of herders. The purpose of the studies was to improve the knowledge base used to evaluate the environmental risk of using herders in connection with in situ burning for oil spill response in Arctic seas. Two herding agents were studied (OP 40 and ThickSlick 6535).
    Laboratory-scale herding and burning experiments were carried out for investigating the physical fate of the two herders during combustion of Alaska North Slope and Grane crude oils (fresh and emulsified). The results showed that after burning, the herder was mainly found on the water surface, and only small concentrations of herders were found in the water column (0.2-22.8 mg/L).
    The inherent properties of herders in relation to toxicity and bioaccumulation on the high Arctic copepods (Calanus hyperboreus), as well as the biodegradability of herders were studied under arctic conditions. The results indicated that a distinct mortality was seen at the highest test concentrations of the herders. However, the concentration of herders required to produce acute toxicity in the laboratory was approximately three orders of magnitude higher than the concentrations measured in the water column when herders were used to conduct an in situ burn in the laboratory. OP-40 might bio-accumulate whereas TS6535 might not. TS6535 was mostly degraded within 7 days, whereas the degradation of OP-40 was insignificant over 28 days.
    Since herders are mainly considered as a surface active chemical compound, the potential impacts of herders on Arctic seabird feathers (from legally hunted Thick-Billed Murre and Common Eider) were investigated. Different dosages of herders were tested; high dosages that might be present just after the application of the herder and low dosages (approximately monolayers) likely to occur for a significant time and distance from the operations. Low dosages corresponding to approximately monolayers of OP-40 and TS6535 did not cause feathers to sink; however they did absorb more water than the controls. The high dosages caused measured damages to the feather microstructure.
    Finally, laboratory burning experiments were carried out to determine if there was a difference in the composition of smoke plumes from mechanically contained burns versus herded oil burns. Herder was not measured in the smoke plumes, and there were no other noticeable differences in combustion between the two methods of containment (herder vs. metal ring).
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2017
    Number of pages20
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    EventInternational Oil Spill Conference 2017 - Long Beach, United States
    Duration: 15 May 201718 May 2017


    ConferenceInternational Oil Spill Conference 2017
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    CityLong Beach


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