Tulane researchers receive grant to develop better, more cost efficient dispersants

July 10, 2013

Barri Bronston
Phone: 504-314-7444

Two researchers from Tulane University have won a $1 million grant to design more effective and cost efficient dispersants than those used in the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Scott Grayson, an associate chemistry professor at Tulane, and Wayne Reed, a Tulane physics professor, are seeking to develop dispersants that have minimal side effects if ingested by human or marine life. They are being joined in the study by Daniel Savin, an assistant polymer science professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.

The project is being funded by a $1 million, three-year grant from BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. The GoMRI is a 10-year, $500 million independent research program established by agreement between BP and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill and its potential impact on environmental and public health.

“We are looking into a way to make more effective and less environmentally disruptive dispersants,” Grayson said.

Dispersants are considered the leading weapon in fighting oil spills, and while the one used after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, COREXIT 9500A, helped dissipate much of the oil, the public expressed concern about the potential negative impact if it entered the food chain.

Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Project, an advocacy group, said cleanup workers, divers and others involved in the spill aftermath, reported such health problems as heart palpitations, kidney and liver damage and migraines.

Grayson and his team will work to develop a dispersant using substances approved by the FDA for human consumption. Although prototypes of similar dispersants have been produced, they are not as cost effective as what Grayson’s team plans to develop using materials such as silica and polythene glycol, common additives in food and medicine that can be obtained cheaply by the ton.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000