The researchers estimated the distribution of oil droplet sizes with and without injection of dispersant at the wellhead. They then applied a novel oil-mass tracking model of the Connectivity Modeling System (CMS) developed shortly after the DWH incident with a RAPID award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and presented a three-dimensional simulation of the DWH spill showing the unfolding of the disaster to examine the effect the synthetic dispersant may have had on the oil transport in the water column. The model indicated that the dispersant injected at BP's Macondo wellhead was not necessary to break up the oil. The subsea application of dispersant did not have its expected outcome.
"This study is notable because it presents a comprehensive estimate of the Macondo blowout from the microscopic oil-water interface through the macroscopic transport of crude oil." said chemical engineer Aman. The work served as a milestone in assessing the three dimensional transport of oil in the water column.
"Since the beginning of the spill our model accurately predicted the decoupling between the surface and subsea oil transport, and was unique in showing the southwest extension of the deep plume," said physical oceanographer Le Henaff. "Correct assessment of upwelling and downwelling currents for the circulation model created a realistic scenario that we then used to test the effect of the injection of dispersant on the oil partition."
As global deep-sea oil exploration expands, the model will be helpful in quantifying the utility
|Contact: Barbra Gonzalez, UM Rosenstiel School|
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science