Illustration of the interaction of oil droplets and gas bubbles on the formation of oil and gas during the Deepwater Horizon incident. The presence of gas in the discharged plume reduced oil droplet size. Image provided by Michel Boufadel.

Modeling Study Characterizes Droplet and Bubble Formation in Subsea Oil Spills

Researchers developed a new formulation to simulate gas-oil interactions within a developing underwater oil plume and applied the technique to the Deepwater Horizon incident. The simulations showed that in the absence of dispersant, gas bubbles reduced the median oil droplet and bubble sizes by up to 20%, with 30 – 50% reduction observed in intermediate gas fractions.

Maya presents her preliminary findings at the 2016 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference. (Provided by Maya Morales-McDevitt)

Grad Student Morales-McDevitt Explores How Nutrients Influence Marine Snow Formation

Marine oil snow is the largest commuter of carbon to the seafloor and occurs when oil and marine particles aggregate and sink through the water column. Previous studies show that oil and dispersant significantly increased marine microorganisms’ production of exopolymeric substances (EPS), an extremely sticky goo that holds marine snow together. Maya Morales-McDevitt conducts mesocosm experiments investigating how certain naturally occurring nutrients influence EPS production and oil degradation.