Study finds use of dispersants can increase oil penetration into sandy marine sediments

May 17, 2013 by Keith Bromery

A Florida State University researcher working as part of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) investigated the effects of dispersants on the movement of crude oil through water-saturated marine sand and found that dispersants potentially facilitate penetration of oil components into the seabed, where oxygen concentrations may affect the degradation of the oil.

Experiments using sand-filled columns ranging from 10 to 50 centimeters in length found that the addition of caused hydrocarbons such as oil to penetrate deeper into and potentially extend the time the hydrocarbons stay in the environment.

Based on these experiments, researchers postulate the deeper penetration of hydrocarbons may slow their degradation due to a decrease in oxygen in deeper sediment layers and thus extend the time the hydrocarbons remain in the environment. However, in fully oxygenated sand, a deeper penetration may increase the number of microbes involved in the and decomposition of the hydrocarbons.

Researchers also concluded from the experiments that the presence of dispersants allow oil components to permeate faster and deeper into sands.

"There is relatively little information on the effects of dispersants on oil deposition and transport in water-saturated sandy sediments," said Markus Huettel, a member of the study team and a professor in the Florida State University Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science. "This study shows that the use of dispersants can potentially have both positive and negative impacts, depending on the of the sand."

Explore further: Alaska fisheries and communities at risk from ocean acidification

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Learning lessons from BP oil spill

Nov 20, 2012

In an attempt to limit the harm of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, three million liters of dispersant were used to dissipate the oil. "The question is whether that was the best ...

Recommended for you

Malaysia air quality 'unhealthy' as haze obscures skies

1 hour ago

Air quality around Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur and on Borneo island was "unhealthy" on Tuesday, with one town reaching "very unhealthy" levels as haze—mostly from forest fires in Indonesia—obscured skies.

Worldwide water shortage by 2040

1 hour ago

Two new reports that focus on the global electricity water nexus have just been published. Three years of research show that by the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population ...

Regulations only a first step in cutting emissions

2 hours ago

Intensifying calls for action on climate change have led to a variety of proposed regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions from specific sources of the economy, including, most recently, the environmental ...

User comments : 0