Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MSCE)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Document Type



This study was developed to determine the distribution and fate of crude oil spilled from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig starting on April 24, 2010. Crude oil from this spill contaminated portions of Fourchon Beach, Louisiana which was the study site for this thesis. Understanding the fate processes that affect crude oil once it’s released is important because the compounds that comprise oil can be hazardous to humans and wildlife. Composite and small surface residual ball (SSRB) samples were collected from the supratidal zone of Fourchon Beach and analyzed for PAHs and alkanes. Alkane concentrations decreased significantly over time, while PAH concentrations demonstrated little to no signs of degradation. High dynamic resolution images of the sampling areas from the supratidal zone were analyzed for distribution of oil using advanced image processing and 16 of the 36 sampling areas had a 1% or greater coverage of oil. The oil coverage data based on image analysis was tested for statistical normality, log normality, and gamma distribution. The data failed both the normality and log normality tests, but passed the gamma distribution test resulting in a mean of 3.2% and 0.6% and standard error of 1.1% and 0.2% in Zones 3 and 2 respectively. SSRB, buried oil, and tarball samples were collected from the intertidal zone of Fourchon Beach. SSRB concentrations from the intertidal zone showed minor decrease over 4 months of sampling. However, total PAHs and total alkanes in SSRBs from intertidal zone were significantly lower when compared against SSRBs in the supratidal zone. Buried oil samples collected closest to the shoreline and those taken on the later sampling dates had a lower concentration of PAHs and alkanes than those collected at earlier sampling dates and further away from the shoreline. Tarball samples collected in the intertidal zone demonstrated decreasing concentrations of PAHs and alkanes over the course of the sampling dates. These results indicate that degradation of crude oil at Fourchon Beach is occurring, but future sampling needs to occur at Fourchon Beach to determine the long term impacts of the oil deposited there.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Pardue, John H.