Navigation Links
The immediate aftermath of an oil spill
Date:8/8/2014

The immediate aftermath of an oil spill The fate of oil during the first day after an accidental oil spill is still poorly understood, with researchers often arriving on the scene only after several days. New findings from a field experiment carried out in the North Sea provide valuable insight that could help shape the emergency response in the immediate wake of disasters.

It is well known that oil and water don't mix. Less well known is the fact that when petroleum is spilt onto a water surface, a fraction of the oil immediately begins to evaporate into the air or dissolve into the seawater. These dissolved toxic hydrocarbons can threaten aquatic species, while evaporated compounds may pose a risk to rescue workers or populations downwind of an accident site. Publishing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, a team of European and American researchers report on a unique study focused on the fate of hydrocarbons during the 24 hours that follow an oil spill.

Following a spill, oil suddenly finds itself in a radically new environment exposed to light, air, and the water surface after millions of years underground. "In its new environment, the oil immediately begins to change its composition, and much of that change happens on the first day," explains Samuel Arey, a researcher at EPFL and Eawag in Switzerland and corresponding author of the study. Oil is a complex mixture of many hydrocarbon compounds. Certain volatile compounds evaporate within hours, contaminating the overlying atmosphere. Others, such as toxic naphthalene, simultaneously dissolve into the seawater, posing a threat to aquatic life.

Especially since the Exxon Valdez catastrophe in 1990, which released over 40,000 cubic meters of oil into the ocean, researchers have sought to evaluate to what extent marine species in the vicinity of an oil spill are exposed to toxic hydrocarbons. But this question has largely remained debated, because many of the hydrocarbons are dispersed into the water or the overlying air well before scientists arrive at the site.

In order to collect data on the immediate aftermath of an oil spill, the researchers collaborated with emergency response specialists of the Dutch Rijkswaterstaat to recreate a four cubic meter oil spill in the North Sea, in a shipping zone already burdened by pollutants, 200 kilometers off the coast of the Netherlands. By studying this relatively small oil release, they were able to gain a better understanding of what goes on in much larger spills, with findings that could be useful to assess the risks to underwater life, as well as to emergency response team workers at the sea surface.

No two oil spills are alike. Aside from the sheer volume of oil released onto the sea surface, the environmental impact of an oil spill depends on external factors, such as the wind, waves, and the temperature of the air and the water. The North Sea experiment, for instance, was carried out on a summer day with two-meter high waves. Within just over a day, the surface oil slick had almost dissipated. On a cooler day with less wind and smaller waves, the slick would have likely persisted longer.

Thanks to a computer model that was tested against the data collected in the North Sea, the researchers are now able to extrapolate their findings to larger spills and other environmental conditions. Results from the study will provide the researchers with tools to better assess the immediate impact of future disasters on humans and on the environment, as well as to plan the emergency response, even in settings that differ strongly from those encountered in the North Sea.


'/>"/>

Contact: Samuel Arey
samuel.arey@epfl.ch
41-216-938-031
Ecole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Aerial mosquito spraying study finds no immediate public health risks
2. Crabs, insects and spiders vulnerable to oil spill, but also resilient
3. University of Houston study shows BP oil spill hurt marshes, but recovery possible
4. Researchers call for a new direction in oil spill research
5. Marine scientists urge government to reassess oil spill response
6. NCEAS researchers offer new ecological model for deep-water oil spills
7. Microbial communities shifted dramatically after Deepwater Horizon spill
8. BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill exacerbated existing environmental problems in Louisiana marshes
9. Spillways can divert sand from river to rebuild wetlands
10. New oil spill dispersant made from ingredients in peanut butter, chocolate, ice cream
11. At least 200,000 tons of oil and gas from Deepwater Horizon spill consumed by gulf bacteria
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/19/2017)... The global military biometrics market ... by the presence of several large global players. The ... major players - 3M Cogent, NEC Corporation, M2SYS Technology, ... 61% of the global military biometric market in 2016. ... military biometrics market boast global presence, which has catapulted ...
(Date:4/17/2017)... NXT-ID, Inc. (NASDAQ: NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ... its 2016 Annual Report on Form 10-K on Thursday April 13, ... ... the Investor Relations section of the Company,s website at http://www.nxt-id.com ... http://www.sec.gov . 2016 Year Highlights: ...
(Date:4/13/2017)... April 13, 2017 According to a new market ... Identity Analytics, Identity Administration, and Authorization), Service, Authentication Type, Deployment Mode, Vertical, ... Market is expected to grow from USD 14.30 Billion in 2017 to ... of 17.3%. ... MarketsandMarkets Logo ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:8/11/2017)... ... August 11, 2017 , ... A staple in the community for ... will incorporate important key elements including a new digital marketing strategy and updated logo. ... them, Bill Miller has partnered with the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center for ...
(Date:8/11/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... August 11, 2017 , ... ... food production, and, in particular, more natural alternatives to synthetic ingredients,” said Matt ... of Third Wave, with the established manufacturing presence and know-how of Biorigin will ...
(Date:8/10/2017)... ... August 09, 2017 , ... Teachers from three Philadelphia ... August 14th through the 16th, the University City Science Center will kick off ... 2016, provides Philadelphia-based middle school educators an opportunity for professional development related to ...
(Date:8/10/2017)... ... ... Each year in the United States more than 300,000 people are hospitalized for ... even worse, the one-year mortality rate is high, ranging from 12 percent to 37 ... Medical Center (Sacramento) and Second Xiangya Hospital of the Central-South University (Hunan, China) might ...
Breaking Biology Technology: