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C-IMAGE’s high-pressure experiments offer a rare perspective into the dynamics of oil plumes and microbial degradation in deep sea conditions.

Oil companies continue to explore to deeper depths in the Gulf of Mexico, including those deeper than 2,100m (7,000 ft) – where deepwater and ultra-deepwater drilling occur. These high pressures and cold temperatures cause oils, gases, and dispersants to behave differently than what is seen on the surface.

Researchers looks to understand these behaviors of oil, gas and dispersants at high pressures (210-times sea level pressure) and low temperatures (3° C) using a pressurized and chilled chambers. The results from the plume and degradation experiments are integrated into near- and far-field oil spill fate models.

Goals of the high-pressure experiment group in C-IMAGE III include:

  • Inject dispersant into live-oil experiments to simulate DwH response
  • Perform critical experiments for future spills with varying blowout conditions (e.g. deeper depth), oil types and biodegradation capacity

To date, task 2 researchers have studied the following:

  • Determine the chemical solubility and partition coefficients for xenophobic petroleum compounds, e.g., benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX), alkylphenols and other petrochemicals between gas charged oil and seawater at high pressure
  • Tracking the fluid pathways of a deep-sea blowout from a multiphase petroleum jet to a rising plume, including pressure drop, rise velocity, the formation of gas hydrates, and the evolution of bubbles and droplets
  • Replicating high-pressure deep-sea conditions to determine the rates natural and engineered microbes can degrade hydrocarbons from a deep-water blowout


Task Partners

The Hamburg University of Technology

University of Calgary-PRG

University of Western Australia

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