What happens to the waste after cleaning up an oil spill? Safe disposal of soiled materials

Pictures of damaged coastlines, oily sheens, containment dams and endangered wildlife are part of every oil spill at sea.

And while a response team arrives and the cleanup begins, UBC Okanagan researchers are now exploring how to effectively manage the waste created by this spill.

As part of a multi-partner research initiative sponsored by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, UBCO engineers are conducting new research to help the oil industry oil spill response and its regulators to improve preparedness and response effectiveness in Canadian waters. A new research study, published recently in the Journal of Dangerous Elements, performs a life cycle assessment of oil spill waste mitigation and how to properly dispose of the waste.

“We never want to experience any kind of spill, but when it does, we have to be prepared,” says Dr. Guangji Hu, postdoctoral fellow at the School of Engineering and co-author of the report. “If a spill happens on land, the contaminated soil can be removed and remediated off site, but that’s just not feasible on water.”

To Using a life cycle assessment approach, researchers developed a framework to help decision makers effectively manage waste from an offshore oil spill cleanup. Life cycle assessment quantifies the environmental impacts associated with products and services at different points in their life cycle.

The life cycle assessment compared various waste treatment strategies – including waste collection, their separation and sorting, initial treatment, safe transport of waste, resource recovery and final disposal of all contaminated materials – as well as the resulting environmental impacts, particularly on scenarios located in Western Canada .

Fighting oil spills in m er is a complex process with many variables, including oil type, tides and water composition, says Saba Saleem, Masters of Engineering student at UBCO’s Lifecycle Management Lab.

“Every spill is special, but with this new tool we can identify road blocks, gaps and bottlenecks bottlenecks in oil waste management during an offshore oil spill response and enable decision-makers to make more informed choices,” says Saleem, who is also the lead on the study. author.

Several tactics such as mechanical containment and recovery, use of chemical dispersants and in situ combustion are commonly used depending on various factors, such as the characteristics of the oil slick, the environmental situations and the location of the spill.

“The waste aspect of oil spill recovery is part of a response, but managing that waste is the most complex, expensive and time-consuming part of recovery,” says Dr. Hu.

The results indicate a strategy combining centrifugation and landfilling as the most appropriate remediation approach for low-impact offshore oil spill waste management, but also highlight the potential for other strategies based on the severity of the spill.

“The analysis of these difficult predicaments holistically through life cycle assessment allows us to develop a framework that encompasses almost all possible offshore oil waste management scenarios,” adds Dr. Hu. “As a result, stakeholders have one more tool to deal with these spills quickly and efficiently.”

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