MMS & Environment Canada Study Deepwater GOM Oil Properties

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service announced that six different deepwater oil samples were recently shipped to Environment Canada for oil property and behavior mechanism analysis. These are some of the first samples to be analyzed from the Gulf of Mexico's deepwater areas. The results from these analyses will be incorporated into Environment Canada's Catalog of Crude Oil and Oil Product Properties database.

Since 1989, the MMS has jointly funded a catalog program with Environment Canada, and has recently expanded its scope to address oils produced on the federal OCS. The catalog provides a single, complete database of physical and chemical data about a variety of oils that may be spilled. The catalog is now available on Environment Canada's web site at and contains information on 450 different types of crude oils and petroleum products.

Knowledge of the physical and chemical properties of spilled oil is extremely important and has a direct bearing on oil recovery operations. These properties influence the selection of proper response equipment and methods applicable for spill cleanup. In the event of an oil spill, knowledge of oil behavior mechanisms such as weathering, evaporation, water-in-oil emulsification, dispersion, dissolution, and photo-oxidation is needed to predict a spill’s behavior accurately. Oil properties information is used by the MMS in trajectory analysis, oil spill planning and preparedness, and environmental impact assessment.

In addition, the MMS reports that Environment Canada has been working on the Behavior of Oil Spills at Sea or BOSS Project. BOSS is designed to provide a comprehensive collection and review of information related to oil spill behavior. No review of this scope currently exists. More than 7,500 papers have been collected and reviewed to date. This project will produce a series of reports that combine a review of literature with numerous data tables and unpublished results.