Oil-mineral aggregates (OMA) are oil droplets stabilized by fine mineral particles. Research studies conducted by DFO and funded by the Program of Energy Research and Development have indicated that the natural formation of OMA alters the adhesive characteristics of residual oil stranded in coastal marine muds. As a result, the oil is dispersed into the water column. By increasing the surface area of the oil and, consequently, stimulating biodegradation, this process effectively removes contaminant hydrocarbons from the marine environment. As a result of these findings, it is hypothesized that this process may be used as a basis for an oil spill remediation technology.
DFO is leading several projects with national and international partners in government, universities and industry to improve our fundamental understanding of factors controlling OMA formation. Particular emphasis is given to mineral characteristics, oil properties and energy requirements. In addition to laboratory studies and data collection following accidental spills, field trials are being conducted to determine the effectiveness of “surf-washing” to enhance OMA formation as a means of enhancing the dispersion of oil.
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