• Marine;
  • Oil spill;
  • Chemical treatment;
  • Toxic risk;
  • Decision support tool


Oil spills, for example those due to tanker collisions and groundings or platform accidents, can have huge adverse impacts on marine systems. The impact of an oil spill at sea depends on a number of factors, such as spill volume, type of oil spilled, weather conditions, and proximity to environmentally, economically, or socially sensitive areas. Oil spilled at sea threatens marine organisms, whole ecosystems, and economic resources in the immediate vicinity, such as fisheries, aquaculture, recreation, and tourism. Adequate response to any oil spill to minimize damage is therefore of great importance. The common response to an oil spill is to remove all visible oil from the water surface, either mechanically or by using chemicals to disperse the oil into the water column to biodegrade. This is not always the most suitable response to an oil spill, as the chemical application itself may also have adverse effects, or no response may be needed. In this article we discuss advantages and disadvantages of using chemical treatments to reduce the impact of an oil spill in relation to the conditions of the spill. The main characteristics of chemical treatment agents are discussed and presented within the context of a basic decision support scheme. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2012; 8: 231–241. © 2011 SETAC