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.
Laser light and high-speed cameras can help researchers observe the behavior of oil droplets within a laboratory-simulated oil plume and interpret how the oil subsequently may move through the water column. Xinzhi Xue uses lasers to non-invasively probe inside the oil plume and get a detailed look at the oil fragmentation process.
Deep ocean oil plumes that formed from the Deepwater Horizon spill and their subsequent rise through the water column were greatly influenced by physical mixing mechanisms such as turbulence, Langmuir circulations, and sub-mesoscale eddies.
Scientists simulated an underwater blowout to analyze the formation, path, and duration of oil plumes. They noted that the simulated blowout formed two plumes, one due to momentum and plume buoyancy and another due to the buoyancy of individual oil droplets separating from the first plume.
Scientists used models, lab experiments, and observations from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to evaluate the importance of variables in oil transport and fate models, particularly those influencing underwater plume development.