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Stockpile tests provide peace of mind for oil industry

Stockpile tests provide peace of mind for oil industry

Date Published: 27-May-16

ChemCentre’s value to the petroleum industry continues to be recognised, most recently through  testing of oil dispersants used in oil spills. ChemCentre Senior Chemist Leif Cooper said the Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre (AMOSC) asked ChemCentre to test the effectiveness of all of its oil dispersant stockpiles across Australia.
AMOSC is an industry association funded by various oil and gas companies, which provides oil spill response services around Australia.

“AMOSC is to the oil industry a bit like the RAC is to its member motorists – companies join the club and then, in the event of a ‘breakdown’, in this case an oil spill, the club sends help,” Leif said. “As a result, AMOSC maintains stockpiles of oil dispersants at strategic locations around Australia.

“Fortunately, Australia doesn’t have many oil spills, so these dispersants have been largely untouched since they were replaced after the Montara well blow-out in the Timor Sea in 2009. While these products are supposed to have a long shelf life, it’s not something that you’d want to have to test in an actual response.”

AMOSC asked ChemCentre to develop the ‘ExDET methodology’ – the Exxon Disperant Effectiveness Test – a means of testing how much oil an oil spill dispersant actually removes from the surface of the water. ChemCentre is currently the only lab in Australia able to perform ExDET testing and one of only four that has a Mackay Chamber, another valuable oil spill testing apparatus.

“While no laboratory test can ever simulate real ocean conditions, the ExDET test provides water, oil and dispersant in the right proportions, and then adds energy to simulate wave energy,” Leif said.

“Oil dispersants work like detergents; they break the oil down so it can be distributed through the water column. We need to make sure they can still effectively do that as they age.

“Once we have tested the dispersants, we will be able to say whether or not they can still be effectively used in the event of an oil spill, when particular dispersants need to be used by, and under what conditions and with what types of oil they may be effective.”
Leif said that the stockpiles would be retested in another five years to measure any breakdown in efficacy over that time.

“These stockpiles are the sort of thing that everyone hopes never has to be used, but if and when they do need to be used, everyone needs to know they will work. Our testing is providing that peace of mind.”

You can check out ChemCentre’s Mackay Chamber and ExDET testing apparatus on our YouTube channel.  

For more information contact Leif Cooper, Senior Chemist and Team Leader, Petroleum Chemistry on 08 9422 9933 or

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