A simulated Arctic crude oil spill was investigated by monitoring physical and chemical changes in a laboratory spill of Guanipa (Venezuelan) crude. The spill consisted of one gallon of crude on 100 gallons of synthetic seawater contained in a fiberglass tank fitted with a wave generator and a controlled radiation system, all located in an environmental chamber held at 2 deg C. Changes in oil composition were monitored using a gas liquid chromatograph. Evaporation removed the largest quantity of material from the spill, the rate varying directly with the exposure time to solar radiation. Solution or sinking removed only minimal quantities of oil although the infleucne of these factors increased with time. The most notable physical change was the rapid formation of stable emulsions. These emulsions formed discrete lumps commonly referred to as "tarballs." The formation of tarballs occurred within a few days after the spill and they remained stable over the four-month duration of the experiment. Their formulation drastically reduced weathering effects by removing the bulk of the oil from contact with the air/sea-water interface. It was concluded that a crude oil spill in the Arctic could contribute significantly to tarball pollution of northern oceans. Tarball formation is not limited, therefore, to warm waters and occurs independently of weathering processes. It would appear that tarball formation depends more on the chemical composition of the oil and the rate of formation depends upon the available wave mixing energy. The ultimate fate of oil spilled in Arctic regions could be in the form of persistent tarballs.

Media Info

  • Features: References;
  • Pagination: p. 461-463

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00172112
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: American Petroleum Institute
  • Report/Paper Numbers: Proceeding
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Mar 29 1978 12:00AM