Modeling the impact of dilution on the microbial degradation time of dispersed oil in marine environments

21 Aug 2019  ·  Fernandez Vicente I., Stocker Roman, Juarez Gabriel ·

Dispersants aid the breakup of crude oil masses and increase the available interfacial surface area for bacteria to degrade insoluble hydrocarbons in the marine environment. However, this common view neglects key aspects of the microscale interactions between bacteria and oil droplets, particularly the encounters between these elements that are required for degradation to occur... This chapter discusses a biophysical model for hydrocarbon consumption of suspended oil droplets under conditions of rapid dilution that occur in natural environments. Based on the model, which includes typical biological growth parameters, dilution is found to produce an effective delay in the onset of biodegradation by approximately a week. The steady and rapid reduction in oil concertation, due to dilution, is found to outpace the production of oil-degrading bacteria that result from colonization of degrading oil droplets, maintaining the process in an encounter-limited state. This mechanistic model provides a baseline for better understanding of microscale biodegradation in dilute oil environments and can help inform the design of mitigation strategies in marine systems. read more

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Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics Fluid Dynamics