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PNAS Writer Follows Scientists Seeking to Answer, Did Sub-Sea Dispersants Work?

July 18, 2019

Scientist and author M. Mitchell Waldrop accompanied researchers, funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, as they conducted the largest experimental simulation to-date of the Deepwater Horizon oil intrusion. The researchers are hoping to provide solid science on dispersant effectiveness so that more informed decisions can be made when the next oil spill happens.

The June 2018 experiment took place at the New Jersey based Ohmsett facility, which was designed for testing oil cleanup methods. The researchers are investigating what is still unknown about dispersant effectiveness, specifically the first-time-ever deep-sea injection of dispersants as was done during the 2010 oil spill. They found, through laboratory experiments and computer modelling, that a closer-to-true-scale experiment mimicking conditions during the oil spill is what was needed to get more complete answers.

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) News Feature The perplexing physics of oil dispersants, Waldrop captures the increasingly complex cascade of questions, answers, and more questions as scientists grappled with underlying physical and chemical processes involved with the use of sub-surface chemical dispersants.

Join Waldrop on his journey with scientists seeking to understand what happens when chemical dispersants are used in a deep-sea setting for oil spill remediation. Here are a few teasers of what Waldrop reports, in refreshing everyday language:

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