UNBC professor receives $1.9 million boost to study oil spill response

University of Northern British Columbia professor Jianbing Li received $1.9 million in federal funding to study oil spill response. Image: UNBC handout

A University of Northern British Columbia environmental and engineering professor has received $1.9 million in federal funding to advance his research into improving oil spill cleanups.

Jianbing Li is leading part of a national project looking at ways to separate oil from water to make it more efficient and less costly to clean up marine oil spills. He will also conduct experiments to treat oily waste and convert it into useful energy.

"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.”

The project began last fall and Li and his collaborators spent the first year reviewing regulations and technologies and developing experiments.

Current techniques for cleaning up marine oil spills involve collecting oily wastewater from the ocean and transporting it to shore for processing or disposal. Li's research will explore ways to separate the oil from the water while the response ships are still at sea.

Among the tasks Li and his fellow researchers will work on include developing improved decanting techniques to separate oil and water, exploring how oily waste can be minimized and generate useful energy, and developing an integrated oily waste management decision-support system to assist in determining the best response for marine oil spill.

The federal funding from Fisheries and Oceans Canada will help support 11 scientific trainee positions at UNBC, ranging from post-doctoral researchers and PhD candidates to graduate students to senior undergraduate researchers.

– Prince George Citizen