Dalhousie Conducting Oil Spill Research

Risk assessments of potential oil spills in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and improving strategies for oil and water separation (oil decanting) are the focus of two research projects being conducted by Dalhousie University in Halifax.

The projects are being funded under the Multi-Partner Research Initiative of the Ocean Protection Plan.

“Through the Multi-Partner Research Initiative, our government is fostering scientific knowledge to help protect our waters and coasts from oil spills for generations to come,” said Halifax MP Andy Fillmore when announcing the $523,000 in funding to support the research in late spring.

Dalhousie is one of four universities participating in the five-year Improved Decanting and Oily Waste Management Strategies for Marine Oil Spill Responses research project.

Being led by the University of Northern British Columbia, with Newfoundland’s Memorial University, the University of British Columbia — Okanagan and Dalhousie as partners, “The overall scope of this project focuses on the regulations and technologies for helping build Canada’s capabilities and improving Canadian practices in oil decanting and oily waste management during marine oil spill responses operations,” said Dr. Lei Liu via email, the lead researcher on the project at Dalhousie.

“In terms of technology innovation, the focus of the project is on testing existing mature technologies which have been widely used in other areas and examining their applicability and suitability to the treatment of oil decanting and decanted oily wastewater, as well as designing/developing an optimized process to make the on-scene treatment become cost-effective and efficienct.”

Each of the four participating universities will focus on different aspects of the project, slated to run until 2022.

“This is one of many highly collaborative projects that Dal researchers are involved in, also highlighting the changing nature of the business. In the past each group of researchers might have bid separately for such a project — now it has become clear that collaboration across multiple institutions is the best way forward,” said associate vice-president research (ocean)  Dr. Anya Waite.

Waite said it is “definitely fair to say that that Dalhousie is both a Canadian leader and world leader in ocean related expertise. The involvement of Dal’s top-level engineers in providing environmental solutions for society provides an excellent example of how working across multiple sectors, with interdisciplinary teams, is critical in solving today’s complex problems.”

The second research project, assessing the risks of potential oil spills in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, is being led by Dr. Haibo Niu.

With global warming significantly reducing sea ice coverage in the Arctic and making it possible for the Northwest Passage to become a key shipping route between the Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, “the environmental risks of ship-sourced oil spills in the area have not yet been well addressed,” reads the project description.

“The goal of this project is to use a high-resolution circulation model to assess risks from oil spills to conservation areas in the archipelago. Oil spill models from the project will help responders locate, identify the potential impacts of oil spilled in specific areas and influence decision-making.”

The $45.5-million Multi-Partner Research Initiative was announced in December 2017 as a way to improve collaboration with oil response experts around the world, advance oil spill research in Canada and help minimize the environmental impacts of oil spills.

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