UNBC professor receives $1.9 million to study oil spill response

Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently pledged $1.9 million to a University of Northern British Columbia environmental and engineering professor to further his research into improving oil spill cleanups.  Dr. Jianbing Li is leading part of a national project that is looking at methods to separate oil from water to make it more efficient and less costly to clean up marine oil spills. He will also conduct experiments to treat oily waste and convert it into useful energy.

The project began last fall and Li and his collaborators spent the first year reviewing regulations and technologies and developing experiments.

Current techniques for cleaning up marine oil spills involve collecting oily wastewater from the ocean and transporting it to shore for processing or disposal. Li’s research will explore ways to separate the oil from the water while the response ships are still at sea.

Among the tasks Li and his fellow researchers will work on include developing improved decanting techniques to separate oil and water, exploring how oily waste can be minimized and generate useful energy, and developing an integrated oily waste management decision-support system to assist in determining the best response for marine oil spill.

The federal funding will help support 11 scientific trainee positions at UNBC, ranging from post-doctoral researchers and PhD candidates to graduate students to senior undergraduate researchers.

In addition to assisting in Li’s research project, the funding will provide valuable training opportunities.

“This project will also assist in training the next-generation of oil spill response professionals. The experience our students will gain by working on this study will help them become highly qualified people in the field,” Li said.