About oil spill control agents

Oil spill control agents (OSCA) may assist in oil spill clean up in Australian waters.

Agents include dispersants, agents, sorbents, degreasers, cleaners and breakers and will generally fall into one of these nine major product types:

  1. Oil spill dispersants

Products which, when applied to floating oil or oil on shorelines, increase the rate of penetration of oil into the water column and increase the persistence of this dispersed oil below the surface.

Subtypes: 1.1 Hydrocarbon-based; 1.2 Water-dilutable concentrates; 1.3 Concentrates.

  1. Surface cleaners or washing agents

Products which, when applied to oil on shorelines or other firm surfaces, facilitate oil removal by natural processes or clean-up activities.

  1. Bioremediation agents

Products which, when applied to oil or oiled substrates, enhance the biological degradation of oil by stimulating the growth of oil degrading bacteria or fungi.

Subtypes: 3.1 Nutrient only; 3.2 Biological agent.

  1. Loose sorbents

Products (usually powder, granules or beads) which adsorb or absorb oil. Note: Sorbent pads, bags and books that are easily recovered are not included amongst oil spill control agents.

Subtypes: 4.1 Natural – organic; 4.2 Natural – mineral; 4.3 Synthetic material.

  1. Degreasers

Products used for cleaning oil from solid surfaces (more commonly machinery or marine structures). Unlike washing agents, degreasers do not result in the incorporation of oil into run-off waters.

Subtypes: 5.1 Natural solvent products; 5.2 Enzyme-based products; 5.3 Solvent-based products.

  1. Solidifying or gelling agents

Products which, when applied to oil, result in the oil forming or being incorporated into a solid or semi-solid matrix.

  1. Emulsion breakers

Products designed to separate oil and water from emulsions. These are not generally used outside of controlled environments.

  1. Herding agents

Products added to surface oil to restrict spreading.

  1. Wicking agents

Products added to surface oil to facilitate ignition.

Oil spill control agent register

AMSA maintains a Register of oil spill control agents - a range of chemical tools which can reduce the harmful effects of an oil spill.

Products included on the oil spill control agent register will be identified for the particular use stipulated in the application for listing of the oil spill control agent.

Oil spill control agents are required to be registered before they are accepted for use in Australia. Find out how to register an oil spill control agent.

Last updated: 8 February 2022