Graduate Research Fellowship: Crude Oil Movement in Sea Ice; Development and Validation of a Parametric Model of Oil Migration

FY 2016 | 3 – Inform | 16-10-08

Graduate Research Fellowship: Crude Oil Movement in Sea Ice; Development and Validation of a Parametric Model of Oil Migration

Marc Oggier, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Contract Term: 07/01/16 – 06/31/18
Award: $25,000

Scope of Work:

Economic interests of the oil and gas industry, as well as the maritime shipping sector, have increased in the Arctic over the past few decades. Despite a decline in the summer sea ice extent, Arctic waters will remain infested with sea ice for a significant part of the year in the foreseeable future. Hence, the hydrocarbon industry will need to cope with sea ice during routine operations. Understanding and predicting the fate of oil in sea ice is crucial to assess risks to ecosystems and people and to effectively respond to an oil spill in Alaskan Arctic waters.

The objective of the proposed research is three-fold:

  • Development of a simple oil migration model that draws on previous work; the model is run in parallel with an oil spill laboratory experiment for parameterization and validation of predictions of onset and extent of oil percolation (depth penetration, the volume of oil pervading ice matrix, expected surfacing time).
  • Validation of the model based on observed oil percolation with the aid of X-ray tomography and sea-ice thin/thick optical sections.
  • Evaluation of the utility of a portable X-ray tomographer to characterize the oil distribution and support prediction for operational purposes in an experiment setting representative of conditions in the field.

The proposed research ties directly into OSRIs mission by providing the information needed by managers and decision/makers for oil spill response and recovery. Those potentially benefitting from the work include first responders in the field, with the potential inclusion of key response guidance derived from the simple model, and personnel tasked with the assessment of impacts and restoration strategies. Estimation of the degree and volume of ice and ice biota affected by the oil through the use of the model to be developed supports the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) exposure evaluation. The design of a relevant sampling strategy is facilitated by the temporal and spatial prediction of oil distribution. The following methods will be applied:

  1. Development of the oil migration model. The model will run with simple input such as ice conditions (thickness, temperature, and porosity), weather variables (temperature, HR . . . ), and oil parameters (volume, physical properties).
  2. Controlled oil spill simulation in a laboratory experiment under conditions representative of the field with continuous in-situ temperature, relative humidity measurements.
  3. Simulation of oil percolation with a daily update based on measured experimental variables.
  4. Comparison between simulation and experiment, based on (1) daily observations(ice surface, temperature) and (3) X-ray tomography data and thin-thick section.

The proposed research is significant in advancing knowledge through better prediction of oil percolation in case of an oil spill. Such understanding and the availability of a model suitable for operation prediction will help recovery efforts, e. g., in determining the most suitable time frame for the clean-up response and the choice of the method applied, and in supporting NRDA exposure evaluation.