Biosurfactants as Agents of Marine Oil Spill Response in the North: Production, Mechanism, Effectiveness and Impact

Lay Summary 

Marine oil spills can lead to harmful and long-term adverse impacts on the environment. Due to the growing interest and activities in oil and gas development in the Arctic and Northern Atlantic oceans, significant challenges that have been widely recognized are the increasing risk of accidental oil spills and the pressing need for new or improved eco-friendly response technologies suitable for cold marine environments. Most of the traditional spill response methods become problematic in such environments due to the strong concerns on the fragile marine ecosystems, the long-term impact on local (aboriginal) communities, as well as the severe technical and logistical challenges. Thus, improved knowledge and pioneering technologies for marine oil spill response in cold seawaters are much desired with potentially significant scientific and practical values.


To help address the challenges, the short-term goals of this  research are as follows:


a) to develop new approaches to comprehensively investigate and develop biosurfactant-based bio-dispersants as agents for marine oil spill response in the north by exploring their production, mechanisms, effectiveness and impacts, and


b) to build expertise and train highly qualified personnel (HQP) in the field.


The long-term goals are as follows:


a) to grow the applicant's current research and training program into a world-leading group in marine oil spill response, and


b) to advance the scientific base and generate new engineering solutions to address the long-term pressing needs of improving the knowledge and capability in oil spills and responses in cold oceans.



The research program and the expected outcomes will be the first of its kind in Canada by developing biosurfactant aided eco-friendly marine oil spill responses in cold ocean environments. It will lead to improved environmental and biological engineering knowledge and novel experimental methodologies for ocean protection within northern Canada and beyond. Unique multi-disciplinary environments will also be created and advanced for HQP training and collaborative research opportunities for researchers. The research aims to bring significant short- and long-term benefits to Canadian industry, government, and northern/aboriginal communities by providing eco-friendly and robust approaches, improving their response capabilities, and directly supporting Canada's new Ocean Protection Plan.


Adapted from

Civil Engineering
Natural Sciences And Engineering Research Council Of Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador
Oil & Gas
Environmental Impact
Start date 
1 Jan 2018
End date 
31 Dec 2023