Oil Droplet Size Distributions in Deep-Sea Blowouts: Influence of Pressure and Dissolved Gases

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Hydrocarbons, Lipids, Liquids, Distribution function, Petrochemicals

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To date, experimental investigations to determine the droplet size distribution (DSD) of subsea oil spills were mostly conducted at surface conditions, i.e. at atmospheric pressure, and with dead, i.e. purely liquid, oils. To investigate the influence of high hydrostatic pressure and of gases dissolved in the oil on the DSD, experiments with a downscaled blowout are conducted in a high-pressure autoclave at 150 bar hydrostatic pressure. Jets of "live", i.e. methane-saturated, crude oil and n-decane are compared to jets of "dead" hydrocarbon liquids in artificial seawater. Experiments show that methane dissolved in the liquid oil increases the volume median droplet diameter significantly by up to 97%. These results are not in good accordance with state-of-the-art drop formation models, which are based on oil-only experiments at atmospheric pressure, and therefore show the need for a modification of such models which incorporates effects of hydrostatic pressure and dissolved gases for the modeling of deep-sea oil spills and blowouts.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Environmental Science & Technology, v. 52, issue 11, p. 6326–6333