A laboratory study of particulate and gaseous emissions from crude oil and crude oil-dispersant contaminated seawater due to breaking waves

Nima Afshar-Mohajer, Cheng Li, Ana M. Rule, Joseph Katz, Kirsten Koehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Crude oil spill incidents occur frequently causing a verity of occupational, ecological and environmental problems. Dispersants are applied to enhance the dispersion rate of crude oil slicks into the water column. In this study, the aerosol size distribution from 10 nm to 20 μm, total particle-bound aromatic hydrocarbons (pPAH) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are measured in a 6 x 0.3 x 0.6 m tank as plunging breaking waves entrain oil slicks. The experiments are performed for seawater with slicks of crude oil, crude oil-dispersant mixture and dispersant only. The measurements investigate the effects of wave energy and slick properties on the temporal evolution of the emissions. The total number concentrations of particles originating from the oil-dispersant mixture are 1–2 orders of magnitude higher than those of crude oil across the entire nano-scale range, reaching 100x for 20 nm particles. Conversely, the differences in concentration are small in the micron range. The average concentrations of pPAH are variable but similar (150–270 ng/m3). The VOC concentrations for crude oil-dispersant mixtures are 2–3 times lower than those of crude oil, presumably due to the surfactant effect on mass diffusion. The drastic increase in ultrafine particle concentrations may raise concerns about effects of inhalation by cleanup workers and downstream communities though VOC emissions reduce. Findings through this study provide insight into how the spray of dispersant may change the ratio of airborne particulate matter and VOC emissions from seawater due to natural processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-186
Number of pages10
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Volume179
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2018

Keywords

  • Aerosolization
  • Oil spill
  • Particle-bound PAHs
  • TVOC
  • UFPs
  • Wave tank

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science

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