Petroleum dynamics in the sea and influence of subsea dispersant injection during Deepwater Horizon

Edited by David M. Karl, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, and approved May 16, 2017 (received for review July 28, 2016)
August 28, 2017
114 (38) 10065-10070

Significance

Environmental risks posed by deep-sea petroleum releases are difficult to predict and assess. We developed a physical model of the buoyant jet of petroleum liquid droplets and gas bubbles gushing into the deep sea, coupled with simulated liquid–gas equilibria and aqueous dissolution kinetics of petroleum compounds, for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Simulation results are validated by comparisons with extensive observation data collected in the sea and atmosphere near the release site. Simulations predict that chemical dispersant, injected at the wellhead to mitigate environmental harm, increased the entrapment of volatile compounds in the deep sea and thereby improved air quality at the sea surface. Subsea dispersant injection thus lowered human health risks and accelerated response during the intervention.

Abstract

During the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a substantial fraction of the 600,000–900,000 tons of released petroleum liquid and natural gas became entrapped below the sea surface, but the quantity entrapped and the sequestration mechanisms have remained unclear. We modeled the buoyant jet of petroleum liquid droplets, gas bubbles, and entrained seawater, using 279 simulated chemical components, for a representative day (June 8, 2010) of the period after the sunken platform’s riser pipe was pared at the wellhead (June 4–July 15). The model predicts that 27% of the released mass of petroleum fluids dissolved into the sea during ascent from the pared wellhead (1,505 m depth) to the sea surface, thereby matching observed volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions to the atmosphere. Based on combined results from model simulation and water column measurements, 24% of released petroleum fluid mass became channeled into a stable deep-water intrusion at 900- to 1,300-m depth, as aqueously dissolved compounds (∼23%) and suspended petroleum liquid microdroplets (∼0.8%). Dispersant injection at the wellhead decreased the median initial diameters of simulated petroleum liquid droplets and gas bubbles by 3.2-fold and 3.4-fold, respectively, which increased dissolution of ascending petroleum fluids by 25%. Faster dissolution increased the simulated flows of water-soluble compounds into biologically sparse deep water by 55%, while decreasing the flows of several harmful compounds into biologically rich surface water. Dispersant injection also decreased the simulated emissions of VOCs to the atmosphere by 28%, including a 2,000-fold decrease in emissions of benzene, which lowered health risks for response workers.

Continue Reading

Data Availability

Data deposition: TAMOC model code, input files, and output files are publicly available through the GoMRI Information and Data Cooperative at https://data.gulfresearchinitiative.org (ezid.cdlib.org/id/doi:10.7266/N7DF6P8R).

Acknowledgments

We thank the late Dr. John Hayes for his advice and encouragement and Thomas B. Ryerson, Richard Camilli, David L. Valentine, Deborah French-McCay, Tim Nedwed, and Chuan-Yuan Hsu for discussions. Research was made possible, in part, by grants from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) to the Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem (C-IMAGE), Dispersion Research on Oil: Physics & Plankton Studies (DROPPS II), Deep Sea to Coast Connectivity in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico (DEEP-C), and GoMRI request for proposal V (RPV-V). This work is also supported by GoMRI Grant SA 16-30 and National Science Foundation Grants OCE-0960841, RAPID OCE-1043976, CBET-1034112, and EAR-0950600.

Supporting Information

Appendix (PDF)

References

1
MK McNutt, et al., Review of flow rate estimates of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109, 20260–20267 (2012).
2
CM Reddy, et al., Composition and fate of gas and oil released to the water column during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109, 20229–20234 (2012).
3
TB Ryerson, et al., Chemical data quantify Deepwater Horizon hydrocarbon flow rate and environmental distribution. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109, 20246–20253 (2012).
4
R Camilli, et al., Tracking hydrocarbon plume transport and biodegradation at Deepwater Horizon. Science 330, 201–204 (2010).
5
DL Valentine, et al., Propane respiration jump-starts microbial response to a deep oil spill. Science 330, 208–211 (2010).
6
SA Socolofsky, EE Adams, CR Sherwood, Formation dynamics of subsurface hydrocarbon intrusions following the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Geophys Res Lett 38, L09602 (2011).
7
JM Testa, EE Adams, EW North, R He, Modeling the influence of deep water application of dispersants on the surface expression of oil: A sensitivity study. J Geophys Res Oceans 121, 5995–6008 (2016).
8
D Lindo-Atichati, et al., Simulating the effects of droplet size, high-pressure biodegradation, and variable flow rate on the subsea evolution of deep plumes from the Macondo blowout. Deep Sea Res Part II Top Stud Oceanogr 129, 301–310 (2016).
9
M Spaulding, D Mendelsohn, D Crowley, Z Li, A Bird DRAFT technical reports for Deepwater Horizon water column injury assessment WC_TR.13: Application of OILMAP DEEP to the Deepwater Horizon blowout (RPS ASA, South Kingstown, RI, 2015).
10
D French McCay, et al. Technical reports for Deepwater Horizon water column injury assessment WC_TR.14: Modeling oil fate and exposure concentrations in the deepwater plume and rising oil resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (RPS ASA, South Kingstown, RI, 2015).
11
J Gros, CM Reddy, RK Nelson, SA Socolofsky, JS Arey, Simulating gas−liquid−water partitioning and fluid properties of petroleum under pressure: Implications for deep-sea blowouts. Environ Sci Technol 50, 7397–7408 (2016).
12
R Camilli, et al., Acoustic measurement of the Deepwater Horizon Macondo well flow rate. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109, 20235–20239 (2012).
13
C Spier, WT Stringfellow, TC Hazen, M Conrad, Distribution of hydrocarbons released during the 2010 MC252 oil spill in deep offshore waters. Environ Pollut 173, 224–230 (2013).
14
L Zhao, et al., Evolution of droplets in subsea oil and gas blowouts: Development and validation of the numerical model VDROP-J. Mar Pollut Bull 83, 58–69 (2014).
15
Z Li, M Spaulding, D French McCay, D Crowley, JR Payne, Development of a unified oil droplet size distribution model with application to surface breaking waves and subsea blowout releases considering dispersant effects. Mar Pollut Bull 114, 247–257 (2017).
16
SA Socolofsky, et al., Texas A&M Oilspill Calculator (TAMOC) modeling suite for subsea spills. Proceedings of the Thirty-Eighth AMOP Technical Seminar (Environment Canada, Ottawa), pp. 153–168 (2015).
17
EB Kujawinski, et al., Fate of dispersants associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Environ Sci Technol 45, 1298–1306 (2011).
18
B Gopalan, J Katz, Turbulent shearing of crude oil mixed with dispersants generates long microthreads and microdroplets. Phys Rev Lett 104, 054501 (2010).
19
Z Li, et al. Technical reports for Deepwater Horizon water column injury assessment: Oil particle data from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (RPS ASA, South Kingstown, RI, 2015).
20
D French McCay, J Rowe, R Balouskus, A Morandi, M Conor McManus Technical reports for Deepwater Horizon water column injury assessment WC_TR.28: Injury quantification for planktonic fish and invertebrates in estuarine, shelf and offshore waters (RPS ASA, South Kingstown, RI, 2015).
21
HK White, et al., Impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on a deep-water coral community in the Gulf of Mexico. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109, 20303–20308 (2012).
22
DL Valentine, et al., Dynamic autoinoculation and the microbial ecology of a deep water hydrocarbon irruption. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109, 20286–20291 (2012).
23
OG Brakstad, T Nordtug, M Throne-Holst, Biodegradation of dispersed Macondo oil in seawater at low temperature and different oil droplet sizes. Mar Pollut Bull 93, 144–152 (2015).
24
SC Bagby, CM Reddy, C Aeppli, GB Fisher, DL Valentine, Persistence and biodegradation of oil at the ocean floor following Deepwater Horizon. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 114, E9–E18 (2017).
25
TC Hazen, RC Prince, N Mahmoudi, Marine oil biodegradation. Environ Sci Technol 50, 2121–2129 (2016).
26
DL Valentine, et al., Fallout plume of submerged oil from Deepwater Horizon. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111, 15906–15911 (2014).
27
SA Stout, JR Payne, Macondo oil in deep-sea sediments. Part 1: Sub-sea weathering of oil deposited on the seafloor. Mar Pollut Bull 111, 365–380 (2016).
28
J Chanton, et al., Using natural abundance radiocarbon to trace the flux of petrocarbon to the seafloor following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Environ Sci Technol 49, 847–854 (2015).
29
KL Daly, U Passow, J Chanton, D Hollander, Assessing the impacts of oil-associated marine snow formation and sedimentation during and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Anthropocene 13, 18–33 (2016).
30
U Passow, Formation of rapidly-sinking, oil-associated marine snow. Deep Sea Res Part II Top Stud Oceanogr 129, 232–240 (2016).
31
SA Stout, JR Payne, Chemical composition of floating and sunken in-situ burn residues from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Mar Pollut Bull 108, 186–202 (2016).
32
CJ Beegle-Krause, General NOAA oil modeling environment (GNOME): A new spill trajectory model. IOSC 2001 Proceedings (Tampa, FL), pp. 865–871 (2001).
33
US Coast Guard (2011) On scene coordinator report, Deepwater Horizon oil spill (US Coast Guard, Washington, DC).
34
SA Socolofsky, TAMOC (College Station) Available at: https://github.com/socolofs/tamoc. Accessed August 3, 2017. (2015).
35
DF McGinnis, J Greinert, Y Artemov, SE Beaubien, A Wüest, Fate of rising methane bubbles in stratified waters: How much methane reaches the atmosphere? J Geophys Res Oceans 111, C09007 (2006).
36
Ø Johansen, Development and verification of deep-water blowout models. Mar Pollut Bull 47, 360–368 (2003).
37
L Zheng, PD Yapa, F Chen, A model for simulating deepwater oil and gas blowouts. Part I: Theory and model formulation. J Hydraul Res 41, 339–351 (2003).
38
SA Socolofsky, T Bhaumik, D-G Seol, Double-plume integral models for near-field mixing in multiphase plumes. J Hydraul Eng 134, 772–783 (2008).
39
T Asaeda, J Imberger, Structure of bubble plumes in linearly stratified environments. J Fluid Mech 249, 35–57 (1993).
40
Gulf BP Science Data (2016) Chemistry data associated with water column samples collected in the Gulf of Mexico from May 2010 through July 2012. Available at: https://data.gulfresearchinitiative.org/data/BP.x750.000:0016#distributionInfo. Accessed August 3, 2017.

Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 114 | No. 38
September 19, 2017
PubMed: 28847967

Classifications

Data Availability

Data deposition: TAMOC model code, input files, and output files are publicly available through the GoMRI Information and Data Cooperative at https://data.gulfresearchinitiative.org (ezid.cdlib.org/id/doi:10.7266/N7DF6P8R).

Submission history

Published online: August 28, 2017
Published in issue: September 19, 2017

Keywords

  1. Deepwater Horizon
  2. oil spill
  3. petroleum
  4. offshore drilling
  5. dispersant

Acknowledgments

We thank the late Dr. John Hayes for his advice and encouragement and Thomas B. Ryerson, Richard Camilli, David L. Valentine, Deborah French-McCay, Tim Nedwed, and Chuan-Yuan Hsu for discussions. Research was made possible, in part, by grants from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) to the Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem (C-IMAGE), Dispersion Research on Oil: Physics & Plankton Studies (DROPPS II), Deep Sea to Coast Connectivity in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico (DEEP-C), and GoMRI request for proposal V (RPV-V). This work is also supported by GoMRI Grant SA 16-30 and National Science Foundation Grants OCE-0960841, RAPID OCE-1043976, CBET-1034112, and EAR-0950600.

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

Authors

Affiliations

Jonas Gros
School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland;
Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843;
Scott A. Socolofsky1 [email protected]
Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843;
Anusha L. Dissanayake
Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843;
Department of Marine Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602;
Inok Jun
Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843;
Lin Zhao
Center for Natural Resources Development and Protection, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ 07102;
Michel C. Boufadel
Center for Natural Resources Development and Protection, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ 07102;
Christopher M. Reddy
Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543;
J. Samuel Arey1 [email protected]
School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland;
Department of Environmental Chemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, CH-8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland

Notes

1
To whom correspondence may be addressed. Email: [email protected] or [email protected].
Author contributions: J.G., S.A.S., C.M.R., and J.S.A. designed research; J.G., S.A.S., A.L.D., I.J., L.Z., M.C.B., C.M.R., and J.S.A. performed research; J.G., S.A.S., C.M.R., and J.S.A. analyzed data; and J.G., S.A.S., C.M.R., and J.S.A. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Metrics & Citations

Metrics

Note: The article usage is presented with a three- to four-day delay and will update daily once available. Due to ths delay, usage data will not appear immediately following publication. Citation information is sourced from Crossref Cited-by service.


Citation statements

Altmetrics

Citations

If you have the appropriate software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice. Simply select your manager software from the list below and click Download.

Cited by

    Loading...

    View Options

    View options

    PDF format

    Download this article as a PDF file

    DOWNLOAD PDF

    Get Access

    Login options

    Check if you have access through your login credentials or your institution to get full access on this article.

    Personal login Institutional Login

    Recommend to a librarian

    Recommend PNAS to a Librarian

    Purchase options

    Purchase this article to get full access to it.

    Single Article Purchase

    Petroleum dynamics in the sea and influence of subsea dispersant injection during Deepwater Horizon
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 114
    • No. 38
    • pp. 9991-E8130

    Media

    Figures

    Tables

    Other

    Share

    Share

    Share article link

    Share on social media