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Oil Spills

Volume 975: debated on Tuesday 11 December 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what research is currently being undertaken by his Department into technology for cleaning up oil spills; how much was spent on this research work in the year 1978–79;how much has been allocated for this financial year; and what plans he has to increase the amount of research work.

Research into oil spill clearance technology sponsored by my Department, with the advice of the Ship and Marine Technology Requirements Board, and carried out largely by the Warren Spring laboratory of the Department of Industry, is aimed at improving the national capability for dealing with oil spills at sea.Current research includes the following fields:

  • (i) the influence of oil type and natural processes affecting spilled oil on the effectiveness of existing clearance techniques;
  • (ii) the improvement of the present seaborne dispersant spraying technique;
  • (iii) the development and operational evaluation of an airborne spraying technique;
  • (iv) the remote sensing of oil on the sea surface;
  • (v) the recovery of oil from the sea—the identification of the essential operating criteria, the evaluation of existing devices and the development and operational evaluation of a prototype system;
  • (vi) the combustion of oil in a ship's cargo tanks or on the sea surface.
  • The amount expended by the Department of Industry on this work on behalf of my Department during the financial year 1978–79 was £579,000. A sum of £727,000 has been allocated for the current financial year.

    So far as can be forseen, the amount of research is likely to continue at about its present level. However, the emphasis will progressively change from basic work to operational evaluation and integration of the techniques developed.