Dr. Jianbing Li, an environmental engineering professor at the University of Northern British Columbia is leading part of a Canada-wide project to study oil spill response.
Dr. Li and his team received funding to investigate improved methods of separating oil from water to make it more efficient and less costly to clean up marine oil spills. As well, Dr. Li’s team will conduct experiments on treating the oily waste and converting it into useful energy.
“Through the multi-partner oil spill research initiative, we will enhance Canada’s response toolbox in the unfortunate event of a marine oil spill,” said Dr. Li.
The project began last fall with Li and his collaborators reviewing regulations and technologies as well as developing experiments. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has pledged $1.9 million to fund the next stage of Dr. Li’s research through the multi-partner oil spill research initiative (MPRI).
UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks said “This research will not only help protect Canada’s environment and coastal communities, it will also inform oil spill response approaches around the world.”
Currently, marine oil spills are cleaned up by collecting oily wastewater from the ocean and transporting it to shore for processing or disposal. Dr. Li and his team are researching ways to separate oil from the water while the response ships are still at sea.
Also, the team hopes to develop an integrated oily waste management decision-support system to assist in determining the best response for marine oil spills.
The federal funding will support 11 scientific trainee positions at the university, located in Prince George, B.C. The trainees will include post-doctoral researchers and PhD candidates, graduate students and senior undergraduate researchers.
“This project will also assist in training the next-generation of oil spill response professionals,” said Li. “The experience our students will gain by working on this study will help them become highly qualified people in the field.”
According to a press release from UNBC, the $45.5 million MPRI is improving collaboration with oil spill response experts around the world, advancing oil spill research in Canada and helping to minimize the environmental impacts of oil spills.