Oil Spill Occurrence, Simulation, and Behavior Introduction

An oil spill generally is defined as an accidental release of oil into seawater from a tanker, offshore production activity, or underground pipeline. The French equivalent for oil spill is maree noire, and the Spanish equivalent is derrame de petroleo. The oil is generally crude oil and its liquid petroleum products (such as LPG, gasoline, jet fuel, etc.) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) as well as liquid chemicals and biofuels. However, in this book, oil spill refers to crude oil and its product fuels such as liquid fuels from petroleum when floating on the seawater surface. Offshore production nearly accounts for 30% of global oil production (about 27 million barrels in 2016), and it is growing. For example, in Brazil, offshore production grew by 58% from 2005 to 2015 as reported by the IEA (2018).

The export and import of oil and its products by sea account for nearly 30% of global seaborne trade. Large crude carriers (LCC) may carry more than 2 million barrels (84 million gallons) of crude oil. The size of tankers is usually measured in terms of dead weight tons (dwt), and one ton of crude oil with API gravity of 30 is equivalent to about 7.2 barrels of oil. Thus a tanker with size of 300,000 dwt may carry about 2 million barrels of such crude oil. When the amount of oil released is greater than 700 tons, the oil spill is considered a large spill. An oil tanker passing through Strait of Hormuz in December 2018 is shown in Figure 1.1 (Russia Today, 2019).

The amount of oil transported by sea was multiplied by 27 between 1935 and 2012 (Planete Energies, 2015). An oil tanker was set on fire by a torpedo in the Sea of Oman due to political conflict in the Middle East as shown in Figure 1.2 (BBC News, 2019). Two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz were reportedly attacked on Thursday, June 13, 2019, an assault that left one ablaze and adrift as sailors were evacuated from both vessels and the US Navy rushed to assist amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran (AP).

In 1991 about one million barrels of oil were released from the ship Haven into the sea about 7 miles off the coast of Genoa in Italy when an explosion occurred due to human error during the loading of the oil tanker as shown in Figure 1.3. The effect of this accident on the ecosystem was huge and could be seen even after 25 years (Haven, 1991).

The biggest oil spill in history occurred in 1991 during the Kuwait-Iraq war that poured between 5 and 8 million barrels of oil into the waters of the Persian Gulf. A second major oil spill occurred in April 2010 at the Gulf of Mexico, also known as the BP or Deepwater Horizon oil spill (Figure 1.4). In this accident between 3 and 5 million barrels of oil flowed into water from the damaged Deepwater Horizon for a period of 87 days covering an area of more than 100,000 km2 with a total cost of about 60 billion dollars (Deepwater Horizon Report, 2011).

The main purpose of this book is to provide an update on the sources and causes of major oil spill occurrence and their environmental impacts, simulation and

An UK oil tanker passing through the Strait of Hosmuz (July 25,2019) Middle East Online (MEO)

FIGURE 1.1 An UK oil tanker passing through the Strait of Hosmuz (July 25,2019) Middle East Online (MEO).

An oil tanker attacked

FIGURE 1.2 An oil tanker attacked.

modeling, cleanup methods, oil specifications and properties, economy and costs as well as their ecological impacts. The book has nine chapters including this introductory chapter covering these topics. Due to the importance of the specifications and properties of crude oil and its products, Chapter 2, following this introductory chapter, is devoted to topics related to the physical and thermodynamic properties of oils needed for predicting the behavior of an oil spill floating on seawater.

Milan, Italy, 1991 oil spill (Haven, Science, 1991)

FIGURE 1.3 Milan, Italy, 1991 oil spill (Haven, Science, 1991).

In Chapter 2 the nature and characteristics of different oils are discussed with the properties affecting an oil spill and its simulation and modeling. To simulate the fate of an oil spill and the rate of its disappearance, at least the following properties and specifications are required (Villoria et al., 1991, Riazi and Al-Enezi, 1999, Riazi and Edalat, 1996):

  • • Characterization of crude oils and petroleum fractions
  • • Pour and flash points
  • • Density and solubility parameters and vapor pressure
  • • Transport properties such as viscosity, diffusion coefficient, and surface tension

The characterization of crude oil and petroleum products plays an important role in using laboratory data to define such complex mixtures and to predict the properties that are not available but needed in the simulation of an oil spill (Riazi, 2005). As an example, if one needs to calculate how much oil would be vaporized after a certain time, the diffusion coefficient of oil vapors in the air, vapor pressure of oil, density, and molecular weight are needed. Furthermore, through appropriate characterization methods, crude oil should be divided into a number of pseudocomponents with known specifications (Riazi and Al-Enezi, 1999, 2002). Methods of estimation of critical data, density, vapor pressure, diffusion coefficient, viscosity, surface tension and solubility for pure hydrocarbons, petroleum products, and crude oils are discussed in this chapter.

The sources of oil spills, their occurrences, and causes are discussed in Chapter 3. A summary of information about the ten largest oil spills in the world is provided in Table 1.1. As can be seen from this table, the major causes of oil spill occurrence

(a) Aria! view of oil spill at the Gulf of Mexico after Deepwater Horizon disaster

FIGURE 1.4 (a) Aria! view of oil spill at the Gulf of Mexico after Deepwater Horizon disaster (NOAA photo), (b) Oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill approaches the coast of Mobile, Ala., May 6, 2010 (photo by United States Navy).

are well blowout during offshore activity, war, human error, and tanker collision as well as natural disasters such as storms. Other causes could be sabotage, operational issues, poor maintenance, and corrosion. Further discussion on these issues and examples for each case are given in Chapter 3. The chapter begins with review of oil and gas reserves in the world and their lifetime. Data on production and consumption

TABLE 1.1

Size and Cause of Ten Major Oil Spills in the World [CNN News, 2019]

Order

Name

Date

Location

Cause

Approximate Amount of Oil Released

Million

gallons

Million

barrels

1

Gulf War

January

1991

Persian Gulf, Middle East

Iraq-Kuwait

war

252-336

5-8

2

Deepwater

Horizon

April—July 2010

Gulf of Mexico, US

Wellhead

blowout

165-210

4-5

3

Ixtoc 1

June

1979-

March

1980

Bay of Campeche, Gulf of Mexico

Exploratory well blowout

140-150

3.3-3.5

4

Fergana

Valley

March 1992

Uzbekistan

Oil well blowout

>88

>2

5

Nowruz Oil Field

February-

September

1983

Persian Gulf/ Iran

Iraq-Iran war

>80

>1.9

6

Castillo de Bellver

August

1983

Cape Town, South Africa

Tanker catching fire

>78

>1.8

7

Amoco

Cadiz

March 1978

Portsall, France

Tanker runs aground

>68

>1.6

8

Odyssey

Tanker

November

1988

Newfoundland,

Canada

Storm

breaking

tanker

>43

>1

  • 9
  • (two

spills)

Atlantic

Empress

and

Aegean

Captain

July 1979 and August 1979

Trinidad and Tobago/ Barbados

Two tankers collide while being towed away

>42.7

and

>41.5

-1

and

-1

10

Production

Well,

D-103

August

1980

Tripoli, Libya

Well blowout

-42

-1

rates in different regions and trade movement maps for both oil and gas are presented for the year 2018 based on the BP statistical report in 2019. Natural gas usually is transported in the form of LNG, especially for long distances. Modes of transportation such as marine tankers and pipelines are discussed with data on the transportation routes and volume. The occurrence and causes of oil spills due to failure or accidents in offshore production wells and platforms, pipelines and shipping, oil tanker wrecks, onshore storage and pipelines, refining, and oil and gas stations near the sea are discussed. Finally some data on the amount and volume of oil versus the cause of oil spill are presented.

On the basis of offshore production-related oil spills, the BP or Gulf of Mexico (GOM) oil spill was the biggest oil spill in history, killing 11 people. The accident occurred on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico at a production well (Macondo) about 70 km off the coast of Louisiana. The oil flow to water which initially was at a rate of 1,000-5,000 bbl/d increased gradually to about 57,000 bbl/d by June 2010. The GOM oil spill created a major environmental and economic catastrophe for both the US and the operating company BP (Riazi, 2016). Some 37% of the GOM area was closed for fishing activity, and the spill reached the shores of four states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. It killed hundreds of birds and sea animals, closing many businesses in the affected areas. The damaged Macondo well was finally capped on July 15, 2010, after 87 days. During this period, according to US government officials, 4.9 million barrels of oil flowed into the seawater. As the event was fully covered by the media for over a year and it is the most recent major accident, more information on this oil spill is available. The cleanup operations took four years, costing BP tens of billions of dollars. It is for these reasons that Chapter 4 is devoted largely to this accident, and it revisits the BP-GOM oil spill as it happened. In this chapter meteorological data and flow rates as well as the composition and properties of the oil are given for simulation purposes. In the last part of the chapter, the trajectory of the spill as it was moving westward, as generated from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other research institutes, from the time of the accident until the end of July 2010 is presented. In fact, April 20,2020, was the tenth anniversary of this accident and one of the reasons for launching this book project. Chapter 4 begins with a brief history of oil spills around the world and reviews some major oil spills including the 1991 oil spill in the Persian Gulf as a result of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The Persian Gulf oil spill was the largest oil spill in human history at that time, releasing between 6 and 8 million barrels of oil into sea. For this reason, this event is also reviewed along with some other major accidents in Chapter 4.

As the BP oil spill was the greatest oil spill in US history and the world, with enormous impacts on the environment, health, and the economy, these issues are reviewed in Chapter 5. Figure 1.5 shows a brown pelican covered in oil from the GOM oil spill being washed at a cleaning center in Alabama. Figure 1.6 shows oil from the BP accident reaching marsh wetlands in Louisiana. Figure 1.7 shows how the oil from the seawater surface reflects the sunlight and thin layers are formed. Chapter 5 the effects of compounds from oil dissolved in water or in the air on the people in the surrounding areas are discussed. As the source of the leak was at the bottom of the sea, some light components from the oil can be dissolved in water while the oil is traveling the 5,000 feet from the leak source to the sea surface. As soon as the accident happened, BP operators began trying various methods never tested before in deep water to stop the flow of oil. Many methods, including using caps of different size, were tried until July 15 when the leak was sealed, and in September the Macondo well was permanently sealed off by cement through a method known as “static kill” as discussed in Chapter 5. In this chapter the political economic impacts of the Deepwater Florizon accident are also reviewed. The US president called the incident a national tragedy with impacts as great as 9/11

Female brown pelican being rinsed following extensive cleaning at the Theodore Oiled Bird Rehabilitation Center in Alabama (photo by Tom MacKenzie, USFWS, May 26. 2010). USFWS

FIGURE 1.5 Female brown pelican being rinsed following extensive cleaning at the Theodore Oiled Bird Rehabilitation Center in Alabama (photo by Tom MacKenzie, USFWS, May 26. 2010). USFWS: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Thick oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill floats on the surface of the water and coats the marsh wetlands in Bay Jimmy, Louisiana, June 11, 2010 (The Atlantic, July 2015)

FIGURE 1.6 Thick oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill floats on the surface of the water and coats the marsh wetlands in Bay Jimmy, Louisiana, June 11, 2010 (The Atlantic, July 2015).

and traveled four times to the region to monitor the situation. He also disused the matter with the UK prime minister and made a national speech asking BP to cover all the costs including fines and damages to the people in the region. The shares of BP dropped more than 50% from the time of the accident, and its CEO had to resign as a result of the disaster. US lawmakers grilled BP’s top managers and made new regulations regarding offshore production activity in the Gulf of Mexico.

When medium and light oils spread unhindered, very thin films eventually form. These appear as an iridescent (rainbow) and silver sheen which dissipates rapidly (ITOPF, 2008)

FIGURE 1.7 When medium and light oils spread unhindered, very thin films eventually form. These appear as an iridescent (rainbow) and silver sheen which dissipates rapidly (ITOPF, 2008).

Efforts to clean up the sea of oil usually begin immediately following an oil spill accident. Cleanup methods are complex and challenging and may include physical/ mechanical, chemical, and biological techniques which are discussed in Chapter 6. The natural behavior of an oil spill is shown in Figure 1.8. Natural processes play an important role in the fate of an oil spill, but they are slow and time-consuming. Some of the equipment needed to accelerate cleanup operations are booms, skimmers, pumps, storage, dispersants and spray systems, response vessels, absorbents, and other spill-response equipment such as aircrafts and boats. The physical methods may include gravity separation, the use of booms and skimmers, flotation, and filtration while chemical methods include the use of chemicals such as inorganic and organic sorbents, dispersants, demulsifiers, and biosurfactants as well as in-situ burning, coagulation, and flocculation. Absorbent materials are those chemicals such as oleophilic material that have the capability of attracting oil, and then the oil and absorbent are removed together (Riazi, 2010). Some of these chemicals have their own environmental impacts, and for this reason bioremediation may be used as an alternative method to reduce environmental risk.

The bioremediation of oil involves the use of bioemulsifiers or biosurfactants as shown in Figure 1.9. Bioemulsifiers disperse the oil slick into smaller droplets and boost oil biodegradation by microbes, while the role of biosurfactants is to increase the solubility and bioavailability of hydrocarbons (Doshi et al., 2018). Some sorbent materials are capable of absorbing 15 g of oil per gram of sorbent. Generally, dispersants are based on hydrocarbon solvents with 15-25% dispersants and are used with a dosage of one to three dispersant to oil volume ratio. Another group of dispersants is used at a much lower dose. The solvent base is alcohol or glycol (oxygenated solvent) with a higher concentration of surfactant. These dispersants are used at a dose of 1 volume surfactant to 10-30 volume oil spill (Riazi, 2010). Some other

Behavior of an oil spill on seawater surface (Riazi, 2016)

FIGURE 1.8 Behavior of an oil spill on seawater surface (Riazi, 2016).

dispersants are used to solidify oil from liquid to solids. These dispersants are polymer-based and usually used for inland oil spills (ITOPF, 2008). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered BP to use a less toxic chemical oil dispersant to break up the oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

Spreading is the horizontal expansion of an oil slick due to gravity, inertia, viscous, interfacial tension, and turbulent diffusion. Spreading is a physical process in which oil spreads rapidly over a large area and breaks up in windrows which are long narrow slicks with the same direction as the wind. The rate of spreading very much depends on the oil density, viscosity and interfacial tension as well as wind and water speeds. A simple and approximate method was proposed by Lehr et al. (1984) to

Chemical treatment of oil spill using surfactants and bioremediation method (Doshi et ah, 2018)

FIGURE 1.9 Chemical treatment of oil spill using surfactants and bioremediation method (Doshi et ah, 2018).

predict the non-symmetrical expansion of oil slicks. The method predicts the length of the minor and major axes from water and oil densities, initial volume of spill, wind speed, and time. For an oil spill of 1 ton, after 10 minutes, the oil can disperse over a radius of 50 m, forming a slick 10 mm thick. The slick thickness decreases to less than 1 mm as oil continues to spread with an area of 12 km2. As discussed by Riazi and Roomi (2008) and based on data published by Leber (1989) and Galt et al. (1991) for the case of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the oil expanded 500 miles within 60 days of its release as shown in Chapter 7.

Skimming is a mechanical method in which oil from the water surface is removed by skimmers. Skimmers can recover oil at various rates, depending on oil slick thickness. For example, for slick of 1 mm thickness the recovery rate is about 35 tons/hr while for 6 mm thickness film the rate of oil removal is about 70 tons or 420 bbl/hr (Riazi, 2010). In-situ burning refers to burning oil in its place over the seawater surface. The largest in-situ burning occurred in Kuwait in 1991 which burned more than one billion barrels of oil over a nine-month period. Although in-situ burning can reduce oil disposal following a recovery, it produces a large amount of smoke with a negative impact on the environment (Allen and Ferek, 1993). The use of booms to control oil and to burn it at the sea surface for the case of the BP-GOM oil spill is shown in Figure 1.10 as was reported by ABC News (2010).

An important aspect of predicting oil spill behavior and choosing the most effective and appropriate response method is modeling and simulation. Figure 1.11 shows the predicted trajectory of the BP oil spill after seven weeks from the time of the accident and how it is spreading westward. The fate of an oil spill is determined by major dynamic processes that may occur once the oil is floating on the seawater surface. The behavior of oil spills largely depends on the type and nature of the oil as well as the environment in which it is spilled, such as air temperature, water temperature, water and wind speeds, and wave conditions. In general, the dynamic processes that marine-type oil spills may go through include spreading, evaporation, dissolution, dispersion, emulsification, sedimentation, and degradation processes as

Smoke rises from a controlled burn in the Gulf of Mexico on May 19, 2010 (Wikinews, May 25, 2010)

FIGURE 1.10 Smoke rises from a controlled burn in the Gulf of Mexico on May 19, 2010 (Wikinews, May 25, 2010).

BP oil spill trajectory (NOAA, June 7, http://response.restoration.noaa.gov)

FIGURE 1.11 BP oil spill trajectory (NOAA, June 7, http://response.restoration.noaa.gov).

shown in Figure 1.8 (Riazi, 2010). NOAA predicted that about 17% of the oil was directly recovered from the damaged Deepwater Horizon well, while about 5% was burned at the surface and about 3% skimmed from the surface, about 5% chemically dispersed, 20% naturally dispersed, 25% evaporated, and as much as 25% remained as residual on the top or bottom of the sea as it was difficult to remove. Due to the importance of modeling and simulation methods to predict the behavior of oil spills, two chapters of the book are devoted to this topic.

In Chapter 7 simple methods are presented for quick estimates and approximate simulations of three dynamic processes that an oil spill will go through once released into the sea. These three processes are evaporation, dissolution, and sedimentation. The amount of dissolution is small because of the low solubility of hydrocarbons in water, but from a toxicological point of view it is very important to determine the amount of oil dissolved in water. In addition, the type of hydrocarbons dissolved is also important to the degree of toxicity. For example, mono-aromatics are the most toxic type of hydrocarbons, and for this reason it is important to determine the concentration of hydrocarbon type versus time (Riazi and Roomi, 2005, 2006, 2008). The amount of evaporation of oil spill largely depends on the concentration of more volatile compounds (light hydrocarbons), while the amount of sedimentation depends on the distribution of heavy components which are heavier than water. Two models are presented in Chapter 7. The proposed model is based on laboratory data, and it is assumed that a certain and fixed volume of oil is released on the water surface and the amount of oil vaporized, dissolved, or sedimented into the bottom of the sea can be estimated. This is the case when oil spills are caused by a tanker collision and the exact amount of oil released into the water is known. The area of oil spill and its volume on the water surface versus time due to weathering can be estimated. In the last part, the model is extended to cases when there is a variable flow of oil onto the water surface. The model can only be applied to water at the surface and not in water columns. Its application to the Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill just for the amount of oil reaching the surface of the water is demonstrated. Daily variation of temperature and wind speed are considered in the numerical simulation of oil leaked from offshore damaged wells. As mentioned earlier, these models are approximate, and they can be used for an initial and quick estimate of the rate of oil spill disappearance to evaluate the most effective response technique. Many other processes such as spreading, emulsification, dispersion, biodegradation, and oxidation are not included in the simplified model presented in Chapter 7.

More comprehensive models include the rate of spreading, horizontal movement of oil slick, and vertical distribution of oil droplets. Commercial software such as OILMAP, TRANSAS, OILFOW2D, OSCAR, or ANSYS is based on simulating the processes such as spreading, horizontal turbulent diffusion, advection, vertical dispersion, emulsification, and evaporation and is capable of predicting the horizontal movement of oil slicks as discussed in an article review by Kastrounis (2018). In these simulations, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and the application of the finite volume method to solve the Navier-Stokes (continuity and momentum) governing equations have been applied (Guo and Wang, 2009). Some of these advanced simulators are presented and discussed in Chapter 8. One publicly available model was developed by NOAA and is called the General NOAA Operational Modeling Environment (GNOME). It is a tool that the Office of Response and Restoration’s Emergency Response Division uses to predict the possible route or trajectory of an oil spill. The model predicts how wind, currents, and other processes might move and spread oil on the water. It also predicts how oil is expected to change physically and chemically, which is known as weathering, during the time that it remains on the water surface (GNOME, 2002). The latest version of GNOME was published in November 2017 by NOAA.

Chapter 8 starts with the latest developments in 3D oil spill modeling, that is, the modeling of deep-water oil well blowout and the subsequent creation of an oil plume. Oil jets created from subsea blowouts are challenging due to the multiple physical processes and forces involved. The loss of pressure leads to expansion and possibly to the formation of gas that accelerates the fluid further. A short distance from the oil exit, the fluid changes from jet-like to plume-like. The resulting plume contains liquid droplets, gas bubbles, entrained water, and potentially gas hydrates. An example of plume simulation from OSCAR Deep Blow is shown in Figure 1.12 where the model tracks the plume as a multi-phase volume, including droplets, bubbles, dissolved compounds, entrained seawater, and gas hydrates. Two types of models are discussed: one for near-field and one for far-field oil spills. Characteristics and specifications of models such as BLOSOM. MIKE. MOHID. OILMAP. OSCAR, and TAMOC are discussed in detail.

Example of plume simulation from OSCAR DeepBlow

FIGURE 1.12 Example of plume simulation from OSCAR DeepBlow. On the left, the color scale indicates different concentrations of dissolved compounds. On the right, one can see the plume reaching the trap height, forming an intrusion layer (simulation animation by Konstantinos Kotzakoulakis and available at https://youtu.be/KHQUztxgG50). Taken from Chapter 8.

Open-source models such as TAMOC, OpenDrift, and GNOME are developed by the academic community and public institutes, and are freely offered for use and customization. This ability makes them ideal for researchers wanting to experiment with new parametrizations, and students wanting to learn the inner workings of a simulator. In contrast, using commercial models such as MIKE and OSCAR involves a cost but provides state-of-the-art parametrizations, a detailed graphical interface, technical support, and modeling services. These characteristics make them the better choice for industry clients and decision-making authorities as discussed in Chapter 8.

The focus of Chapter 9 is on the economic and financial aspects of offshore oil spills. The local economic and financial impacts include cleanup costs, natural resource damage, socioeconomic losses, and other related costs. The global impacts of oil spills include oil price, financial markets, and energy industry network. In this chapter some cost estimation models are presented for cleanup operation with some case studies in the UK and Finland. In one model, the costs are divided into on-water and shoreline costs based on some case studies. In shoreline cleanup costs, a method is presented for the estimation of the lost service value of natural resources after oil impacts. The oil pollution will also cause losses to various socioeconomic aspects, e.g. fishery and tourism, by reducing their profits. At the end of the chapter some methods of damage estimation and compensation for some major oil spill incidents caused by tanker accidents are presented.

References

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BBC News. 2019. June 15. https://www.bbc.com/news

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Galt, J.A., W.J. Lehr and D.L. Payton. 1991. Fate and transport of Exxon Valdez oil spill.

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