you're reading...


The first day after an oil spill

Article: Jonas Gros et al. First Day of an Oil Spill on the Open Sea: Early Mass Transfers of Hydrocarbons to Air and Water. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, 48, 9400−9411. DOI: 10.1021/es502437e


Twelve large oil spills have occurred since 1990. With each occurrence thousands of tons of crude oil were dumped into the ocean causing significant damage to the environment. Birds and marine mammals suffer from oil penetrating into their plumages and furs, respectively, which causes reduced insulating ability and loss of buoyancy in the water.

Crude oil is mostly composed of n-alkanes and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs) which are toxic to organisms. After an oil spill it is crucial to investigate the fractionation of compounds partitioning into the air and water to aid in predicting their threat to downwind population and the marine community. The distribution and fractionation of crude oil also provide the information necessary for taking actions for cleaning-ups.

Fig 1. An example of oil slicks on Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela in January 2013. The scene shows oil slicks (the various dark patches) in the south-eastern portion of the lake. The slicks come from leaks in the various oil production and storage platforms located on Lake Maracaibo.   From: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=3533

Fig 1. An example of oil slicks on Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela in January 2013. The scene shows oil slicks (the various dark patches) in the south-eastern portion of the lake. The slicks come from leaks in the various oil production and storage platforms located on Lake Maracaibo. (From NASA)


Experiments and Results

An oil release experiment was conducted by Jonas. in 2009 in the North Sea, Netherlands. Within 26 hours after the release of 4.3 m3 of Norwegian Grane crude oil over the sea surface, oil slick and sheen samples (from the sea surface) and water column samples (from deeper ocean) were collected. These samples were then taken to laboratories and analyzed by Comprehensive Two-dimensional Gas Chromatography (GC×GC) coupled to a flame ionization detector. The GC×GC system is able to analyze compounds ranging from C9 to C45, which corresponds to 68.9% of the Grane crude oil mass.

Analysis of collected samples revealed that volatile and/or soluble hydrocarbons were removed rapidly from the floating oil during the first day. Approximately 55% of undecane (n-C11) and 41% of naphthalene were lost 0.58h after the end of oil release; >50% of n-alkane up to n-C17 and partial to total of two- to three- ring PAHs were lost after 25.23h.

Figure 2 is a mass loss table (MLTs) derived from GC×GC data.  It shows the mass loss of individual cells in a weathered sample compared to neat oil. Each cell symbolizes a group of compounds falling into a certain range of y-axis and x-axis values. Y-axis stands for solubility which indicates the dissolution process of compounds. X-axis represents vapor pressure with a higher value indicating larger tendency to evaporate. The whole plot reveals an oil removal process from the upper left side to the lower right side, meaning higher volatilization/solubility compounds disappeared faster in the system.

Fig 2. Mass loss tables

Fig 2. Mass loss tables



This is the first study to report on the evaporation/dissolution during the initial day of an open ocean oil spill. Vaporized compound levels are important to understand inhalation exposure levels to downwind population and personnel involved in emergency response. Dissolved compounds levels exhibit the exposure level of aquatic organisms and these concentrations can be most elevated during the initial hours.

A model was developed in addition to the experiment to describe the transfer of crude oil into the air and water column. Temperature, wind, and wave conditions were used to parameterize the model. The model correctly predicted the observed fractionation of petroleum hydrocarbons. This is crucial in that this model can be extended to infer oil spills under other conditions and may be in use for future emergency response. For example, cold weather are expected to produce more mass apportionment to water than to air; higher wind speed enhances both water and air fractionation;  a thinner slick would cause more rapid fractionation arising from evaporation and dissolution.


One Response to “The first day after an oil spill”

  1. “The First Day After an Oil Spill” By Caoxin Sun

    There have been 12 big oil spills since 1990 and with each oil spill, it causes a huge blow to marine life such as reduced insulating ability and loss of buoyancy in water. There was an oil experiment which they tested to see what happens when oil is released into the ocean. He created tables and recorded data. He came to the conclusion that the weather affected oil. Cold weather produced more mass apportionment to water than air. Strong winds cause there to be more water and air fractionation. A thinner slick causes fast fractionation.

    I am not sure I learned all that much since most of it did not make sense to me, but I also learned the causes and effects of oil spills like how it decreases insulating ability. I would like to learn more about the actual experiment. Why did Jonas make this experiment and how do animals end up after more than a week of oil exposure?

    Posted by andrew | March 5, 2017, 9:33 pm

Post a Comment


  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com