Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chemical Engineering

Document Type



During the ‘Deepwater Horizon’ accident in the deep sea in 2010, about 4.9 million barrels of oil was released into the Gulf of Mexico, making the spill one of the worst ocean spills in recent times. To mitigate the ill effects of the event on the environment, subsea injection of dispersants was carried out. Dispersant addition lowers the interfacial tension at oil/water interface and presence of local turbulence enhances the droplet disintegration process. The oil droplets contain a plethora of hydrocarbons which are soluble in water. In deep spill scenarios, droplets spend large amounts of time in water column; hence, the dissolution process of soluble hydrocarbons becomes important. In this study, our focus is to exploit the capabilities of multiphase CFD in developing an integrated numerical model which accounts for various transport processes and hence would effectively guide us in predicting the fate of oil mass. In the initial stages, studies were conducted to understand these transport processes at a very fundamental level where the effect of surfactant, on the dynamics of crude oil, droplet rising in a stagnant column, was investigated. To capture the subsurface dissolution of hydrocarbons from oil droplet, a unique experiment was devised wherein a binary organic mixture, representing a pseudo oil droplet comprising of volatile and non-volatile hydrocarbons, was employed to study the effect of unsteady mass transport on the overall dynamics of the droplet. In the next phase of project, we developed a numerical model, by integrating traditional multiphase CFD models and turbulence models, with a population balance (PB) approach, for predicting the droplet size distribution resulting from the interaction of turbulent oil jets with the surrounding quiescent environment. Apart from the simulations specific to oil spill related situations, the multiphase CFD was also employed to study the fluid flow in micro-channels. The mass transfer mechanisms in micro-channels for immiscible fluids in squeezing and dripping regimes were studied by employing the numerical model, which couples the features of the traditional Volume of fluid method and the Continuous Species transport approach for evaluating the concentration fields inside dispersed and continuous phase.



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Committee Chair

Nandakumar, Krishnaswamy