Master of Science in Chemical Engineering (MSChE)


Chemical Engineering

Document Type



Despite the popular belief that crude oil is a mixture of hydrocarbons that floats on the surface of water, tar balls continue to wash up on beaches from the sea floor years after the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. This is because of the rarely studied weathering effects that occur during deep sea spills. While the evaporative weathering process of oil at the water’s surface has been studied, no currently implemented models assess the weathering effects of dissolution within the water column. The evaporative effects at the sea surface and the dissolution of soluble components within droplets located in the water column leave a heavy fraction of oil that may sink. Laboratory experiments from previous work used hydrocarbon-like chemicals to form binary model oils. In contrast, experiments presented in this work use crude oil amended model oil (COA-MO) mixtures where the sinking of heavy fractions of crude oil does occur. The evaporative weathering binary model, when applied to COA-MO mixtures, was able to predict the sinking times of oil droplets using physical data of the three individual components of the mixture (crude oil, a light volatile, and heavy non-volatile chemical). The dissolution bonary model was able to predict the sinking times of COA-MO mixtures while submerged under water. A range of experimentally derived dissolution time constant, K, was obtained which could be applied to a broad spectrum of real world oils where the solubility of individual crude oil components varies greatly.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Thibodeaux, Louis J.