Scientists Seek To Develop Less Toxic Dispersant

Dec 26, 2012

Scientists at LSU, Columbia and Iowa State University have teamed up to develop a more environmentally-friendly oil dispersant.

The project is rooted in BP’s response to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and addresses surfactants, which are chemicals with properties that help oil and water mix.

LSU AgCenter toxicologist Chris Green said some of the surfactants in Coreexit, the dispersant used to clean up the 2010 BP oil spill, are synthetically produced. He likens them to surfactants found in boat de-greaser and other toxic, synthetic products.

Green said the team aims to develop a more biologically-oriented surfactant.

“From naturally occurring bacteria and microbes in, you know, distiller grains or corn, corn byproducts and even sugar cane by-gas," said Green.

At this early stage, Green said he and LSU AgCenter wetlands biologist Andy Nyman are charged with testing the more natural surfactant’s effects on living organisms.

He said the scientists and researchers at Columbia and Iowa State will focus on actually creating the new oil dispersant. Green said in about a month or so they hope to be testing an actual product in the lab.

The $211,000 project is being funded for three years by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation.