A dispersant is designed to prevent clumping or settling, and often contain surfactants, which are commonly found in detergents and various kinds of soap.
After an oil spill, dispersants can help break up an oil slick. This allows the oil to more readily dissolve into the water.
Most dispersants used in oil spills are designed to be used on the surface, sometimes even relying on the oceans wave activities to propery intermix the dispersant with the oil. Obviously, this will not work as well below the surface. Thus a dispersant designed to work below the surface would bind to and dissolve the oil before it reached the surface.
To view the MSDS (Material Data Safety Sheet) on the dispersant used in the Gulf Oil Spill, click here.
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