ND-ECI Seminar: Roger Prince


Location: Zoom

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Please join the Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative for a virtual seminar presented by Roger Prince, Retired Senior Research Associate, ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences Inc.

The title of his talk is "50 years of oil dispersant development and (occasional) use."


Abstract: To paraphrase Winston Churchill on democracy, dispersants are the worst tool in the oil spill response toolbox, except for all the others that have been tried. By dispersing spilled oil into tiny droplets with substantial surface area per volume, and allowing them to dilute so that the endogenous microbial nutrients (N, P, Fe, etc.) are sufficient for microbial growth, dispersion encourages biodegradation so that the oil is converted to biomass and CO2, and eventually feeds the fishes. Yet dispersants have a dreadful reputation as environmentally deleterious, despite the wealth of facts to the contrary. This talk will cover the chequered history of dispersants since the 1967 Torrey Canyon spill, the appalling mess and destruction following undispersed spills if they reach land, the development of very effective yet minimally toxic dispersants, and the substantially ameliorated impacts of dispersed spills, which do not strand on shorelines. To paraphrase Churchill again, no one pretends that dispersants are perfect or even suitable in every case, but they are usually the best option.

Bio: Roger Prince was a Senior Research Associate with ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences Inc. in Annandale, New Jersey until he retired 2016. He was Exxon’s lead scientist in the monitoring of the successful bioremediation of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, and also did field work on experimental spills in the Arctic. Prior to joining ExxonMobil he was a visiting faculty member at the University of California in Berkeley, and on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. He has published almost 400 papers and chapters in the refereed literature, and was awarded Stanford’s Farrel W. Lytle Prize for Contributions to Synchrotron Spectroscopy in 2000, the North Jersey ACS Chapter’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, and the Waksman Honorary Lectureship of the Theobald Smith Society (ASM) in 2013.