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: Obama floats offering first-ever drilling lease in Atlantic

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

Sao Paulo warns of severe water rationing

25 minutes ago

Authorities in Sao Paulo, Brazil's richest state and economic hub, have warned they are considering severe water rationing if the country's worst drought in 80 years continues.

Refineries challenge EPA plan to cut emissions

3 hours ago

A rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency that aims to curb emissions from oil refineries and petrochemical manufacturers is causing tensions to flare between the agency and industry groups. The agency is reviewing ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.