• Assessing the fate of crude oil in Arctic coastline sediments: effect of exposure time and sediment structure

      Iverson, Anna Christine; Schiewer, Silke; Perkins, Robert; Barnes, David (2015-08)
      The research presented in this thesis will allow for a better understanding of how crude oil interacts with the shoreline. Offshore oil production along Alaska's arctic coast is expected to increase in coming years. While this is likely to create large economic benefits for the state, crude oil spills may occur. An oil spill may reach the shoreline, where it could create adverse short and long-term ecological effects. Mass transfer processes, affected by sediment characteristics, play an important role in determining the fate of crude oil along shorelines. Crude oil viscosity and diffusion are strongly temperature dependent. Nutrients, commonly added to stimulate bioremediation, may be washed out with waves and tides. It is therefore necessary to study how factors such as the beach matrix, nutrient addition and temperature affect hydrocarbon distribution. Laboratory experiments were implemented to help better understand how the soil composition and tidal action will affect the oil's movement through the shoreline sediments. Experiments were conducted for two different sediment types (sandy-gravel versus pebble) obtained from Barrow, AK and two different temperatures (20° and 3° Celsius). A microcosm study using a PVC pipe set-up was used to simulate the transport of oil through the sediment profile. Data obtained from this study show that the amount of pooling and its location was dependent on sediment structure. In sandy gravel sediment, Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) persisted 6 inches below the surface, indicating pooling does occur. In pebble sediment, TPH persisted at the top and bottom of the column, but only for the first few days, indicating the pooling would not be a long term problem. Both sediments had higher CO₂ production at higher temperatures, with the highest respiration, i.e. more biodegradation, found in sandy-gravel. While CO₂ releases were slightly higher in sediments with the addition of fertilizer, overall the application of fertilizer did not have a significant impact on the fate of crude oil in shoreline sediments.