Alabaster disputes BP claim that Sea Brat #4 dispersant too toxic

24 May 2010 17:43  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Alabaster disputed a claim from BP that its Sea Brat #4 chemical dispersant could have more long-term toxic effects on the Gulf of Mexico’s oil spill area than Nalco’s Corexit, the US bioremediation company said on Monday.

“Based on the relatively low concentrations of propylene glycol (PG) and nonylphenol ethoxylate in Sea Brat #4 and the toxicity results for the product that was provided with the original submittal, we are confident there will be no ecological impact,” Alabaster chief executive Charles Sheffield said in a letter sent to BP.

BP on Sunday said it planned to stick with Corexit to help clean up the Gulf spill despite the US government’s directive to find a less toxic alternative.

In a 19 May letter from BP to the Enviromental Protection Agency (EPA), BP said that the Alabaster dispersant was “equally effective at dispersing oil, but has fewer acute toxicity effects”.

However, BP noted that the dispersant contained a small amount of a chemical that could degrade to nonylphenol, which it said had been “identified by various government agencies as potential endocrine disruptors, and as chemicals that may persist in the environment for a period of years”.

“The manufacturer has not had the opportunity to evaluate this product for those potential effects, and BP has not had the opportunity to conduct independent tests to evaluate this issue either,” BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said in his letter to the EPA.

But Pasadena, Texas-based Alabaster said that neither nonylphenol nor PG was considered a marine pollutant, since they were in concentrations of 1.91% and 2.09%, respectively.

“Even if a component is on the [EPA] list, it is not considered to be a marine pollutant unless it is present in the mixture at a concentration of [equal to or greater than] 10% by weight,” Sheffield said.

Moreover, the decomposition of nonylphenol would only amount to about 0.72%, Sheffield said.

BP did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

In his letter, Suttles said BP had stockpiled 100,000 gal of Sea Brat #4 and had applied for EPA permission to use it before it learned of the nonylphenol issue.

Nonylphenol also had been linked to the feminisation of male fish, according to news reports.

BP said that Corexit appeared to have fewer long-term effects than other dispersants evaluated.

Oil began spewing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico after a 20 April explosion sank the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon offshore rig.

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By: Ben DuBose
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