A Study of Spreading and In Situ Burning of Oil in an Ice Channel


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The potential for oil exploration on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf warrants determination of an efficient method to clean up an oil spill. Traditional spill response equipment may not be practical in an Arctic environment; the presence of ice which may prevent proper deployment of equipment. The remoteness of the areas proposed for oil exploration lack the infrastructure and support networks necessary to stage a response to a large oil spill. These difficulties make it necessary to explore alternative means of oil spill cleanup. In situ burning is one method that may be particularly well-suited for arctic and sub-arctic environments due to the minimal amount of equipment required to achieve an efficient burn, i.e. high mass loss. The Arctic and sub- Arctic environments add an additional level of complexity by introducing a spill medium (ice) that is highly unstable at elevated temperatures. Our experiments sought to calculate the mass loss rate of oil mixtures to determine the efficiency with which they burn within ice channels of varying widths. Since fuel layer thickness is a critical factor in determining the effectiveness of an in situ burn the spread rate of oil along an ice channel was studied. Burning of oil in an ice channel yields low efficiencies (10%) primarily due to the geometric changes of the melting ice channel. The spreading was modeled as a constant flux rectilinear buoyancy-inertia governed flow. The melting causes an increase in the surface area and results in the critical thickness of the oil to be reached sooner. Based on the current bench- scale testing, losses due to ice melting cause the efficiencies of the burning process to be excessively low and not viable to full scale clean up. The results warrant future research to understand how varying other parameters, including starting mass of fuel, influence efficiencies.

  • English
  • etd-042512-195804
Defense date
  • 2012
Date created
  • 2012-04-25
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