Master of Science (MS)


Oceanography and Coastal Sciences

Document Type



Crude oil has been increasing in world demand over the past century. It is known that oil is resistant to weathering processes and if spilled, can cause serious environmental damage to an area, on land or sea. A complementary approach to current methods of tracking oil and identifying spill-impacted sediments may be to measure trace metals associated with crude oil. Trace metals, such a vanadium (V) and nickel (Ni) are known to be elevated in concentration in some oil sources, but little work has been done on this topic. This research explored less expensive and time-consuming methods to track or identify an oil spill-impacted area using the trace metals V and Ni that would serve as a complementary method to current GC/MS analyses. Using a ratio of extractable V and Ni versus conservative background elements found in abundance in sediments where this ratio may change as a result of oil spill contamination, it looks possible to determine if there is an elevated concentration of V and Ni in spill impacted areas compared to control areas. Two control sites, Wax Lake in the Atchafalaya Basin, and an area in the Gulf of Mexico near the Deepwater Horizon impact site, but sampled pre-spill, were compared to other sites, one known for most samples to have been impacted by the spill and other areas with more isolated contamination. Three different statistical techniques were used to compare possible impacted sites to control sites. The analyses covered ratios of V/Al, V/Fe, Ni/Al, and Ni/Fe to test for contamination, and Zn and Mg ratios to serve as control elements that should not be changed by a spill. Two of the three statistical methods generally supported the visibly oil impacted area had elevated concentrations of V and Ni. This work concludes that it may be possible to use these V and Ni ratios to determine areas of crude oil contamination of sediments in coastal areas.



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Committee Chair

Gambrell, Robert