Advective pore-water transport of hydrocarbons in North East Scotland coastal sands
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Oil spills in the marine environment can cause ecosystem-level impacts. Dispersant application as an oil spill response measure leads to the widespread distribution of hydrocarbons in the water column and marine sediments. The North Sea is an area of intense hydrocarbon production and is at risk of oil spills, which are of concern to its benthic ecosystem due to its sediments’ high permeability. Here, entrainment of hydrocarbons via pore-water advection into permeable North Sea sands and the associated effect of Superdispersant-25, a commercial oil dispersant, were evaluated in a laboratory. Centrally stirred chambers that induce advective pore-water fluxes in sediments were filled with sediment, seawater and mixtures of oil and Superdispersant-25. Dispersant application had contrasting effects on hydrocarbon interactions with sediment: (1) it reduced accumulation of hydrocarbons in surface sediments and (2) facilitated the entrainment of hydrocarbons up to 8 cm deep into sediments by increasing hydrocarbon solubility in seawater and its subsequent washout or pumping into sediment by pore-water movement. Results here show that dispersant application can have counter-intuitive effects on hydrocarbon interactions with marine sediments and highlight the need for further research in this area to make better informed decision in an oil spill response scenario.
KeywordsAdvection Seabed Oil Dispersant Oil entrainment Advective pore-water transport Marine pollution Hydrocarbons
The authors thank the MRV Temora crew for the assistance with sample collection and Cruikshank Analytical Lab for the carbon content analysis. Val Johnston is thanked for her assistance with the experimental setup and sampling. John Polanski is acknowledged for helping configure the experimental setup. Dubravka Pokrajac and Dominic van der A are thanked for the helpful discussion.
LJP, JA and UW designed the experiment. AG facilitated the collection of samples. LJP, KV and LDP collected the samples and carried out the experiments. LJP analysed and interpreted the data. LJP wrote the manuscript with input from all co-authors.
LJP and hydrocarbon analytics were funded through MarCRF funds for a PhD project designed by UW, JA and AG and awarded to LJP.
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