NOAA Releases Study on Deepwater Horizon Controlled Burns

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Black smoke billows from a controlled burn of surface oil during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A new study by NOAA and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) found that controlled burns released more than one million pounds of sooty black carbon into the atmosphere.

During the 2010 BP/Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill, an estimated one of every 20 barrels of spilled oil was deliberately burned off to reduce the size of surface oil slicks and minimize impacts of oil on sensitive shoreline ecosystems and marine life.

 

In response to the spill, NOAA quickly redirected its WP-3D research aircraft to survey the atmosphere above the spill site in June. During a flight through one of the black plumes, scientists used sophisticated instrumentation on board, including NOAA's single-particle soot photometer, to characterize individual black carbon particles. The black smoke that rose from the water’s surface during the controlled burns pumped more than 1 million pounds of black carbon (soot) pollution into the atmosphere, according to a new study published last week by researchers at NOAA and its Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Boulder, Colo.This amount is roughly equal to the total black carbon emissions normally released by all ships that travel the Gulf of Mexico during a 9-week period, scientists noted.

 

Black carbon, whose primary component is often called soot, is known to degrade air quality and contribute to warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. The new study, published online this week in Geophysical Research Letters, provides some of the most detailed observations made of black carbon sent airborne by burning surface oil.

 

“Scientists have wanted to know more about how much black carbon pollution comes from controlled burning and the physical and chemical properties of that pollution. Now we know a lot more,” said lead author Anne Perring, a scientist with CIRES and the Chemical Sciences Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo.
Global surface temperature Anomalies - August 2011.

 

Black carbon is the most light-absorbing airborne particle in the atmosphere and the reason for the black color in the smoky plumes that rise from the surface oil fires. Black carbon can also cause warming of the atmosphere by absorbing light. Prolonged exposure to breathing black carbon particles from human and natural burning sources is known to cause human health effects. During the 9 weeks active surface oil burning, a total of 1.4 to 4.6 million pounds (0.63 to 2.07 million kilograms) of black carbon was sent into the atmosphere of the Gulf of Mexico, the study estimated.

 

The study found that the hot soot plumes from the controlled burns reached much higher into the atmosphere than ship emissions normally rise, potentially prolonging the amount of time the black carbon can remain in the atmosphere, which would affect where the black carbon ends up. The researchers also found that the average size of the black carbon particles was much larger than that emitted from other sources in the Gulf region, and that the emitted particles produced were almost all black carbon, unlike other sources such as forest fires that tend to produce other particles along with black carbon. “The size and makeup of the black carbon particles determine how fast the particles are removed from the atmosphere by various processes, which ultimately affects their impact on climate,” says Perring. Larger particles are removed from the atmosphere more quickly and thus have smaller climate impacts. And, those same properties of black carbon are important for assessing human health impacts.

 

Finally, Perring and her colleagues found that of the oil that was burned, 4 percent of the mass was released as black carbon, an important metric rarely observed during cleanup of an oceanic oil spill, which could help guide future decision-making. The new paper, Characteristics of Black Carbon Aerosol from a Surface Oil Burn During the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, has 15 co-authors from NOAA ESRL and CIRES and can be found on the Geophysical Research Letters website. As part of its response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the unified federal response team used controlled burns to remove oil from the open water in an effort to minimize impacts to the shoreline and marine and other wildlife. For more information about the federal response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and ongoing restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, visit RestoreTheGulf.gov.

Maritime Reporter July 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Environmental

Thordon Bearings Secures AK Ferry Contract

Thordon Bearings has received an order to supply its COMPAC system to two Alaska Ferry newbuilds under construction at the Vigor Industrial shipyard in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Cruise Industry Wins Key Norovirus Judgment

In what is being seen as a landmark decision, Hill Dickinson is the first law firm to have successfully defended a UK class action case involving a Norovirus outbreak onboard a cruise liner.

Shell Moves Ahead in Arctic with Exploratory Well

Shell Oil's icebreaker MSV Fennica weaved through nine remaining protesters hanging from the St. Johns Bridge and made its way toward the Pacific Ocean.   Authorities

Education/Training

NAO Expedition to Study Walruses

From Naryan-Mar complex expedition started "Investigation Atlantic walrus habitat" for the study of animal southeastern Barents Sea. The expedition of seven

Korean Registry Okays Transas ECDIS

Transas, one of the world's leading providers of integrated navigation solutions, received ECDIS type-approval from the Korean Registry (Korea Marine Equipment Research Institute),

The Marine Engineering Handbook

MarEngine English Underway by Wieslawa Buczkowska is a marine engineering English handbook that can be used as a practice teaching tool or for self-studying.   The

Coast Guard

DHS, Postal Service to Dedicate USCG Forever Stamp

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Postal Service leaders are scheduled to dedicate the United States Coast Guard Forever stamp during a ceremony Tuesday at Coast Guard Headquarters.

Three Rescued on Lake Tahoe

The Coast Guard and multiple agencies rescued three people Wednesday evening after they were reported missing on Lake Tahoe. At 9:45 p.m., Coast Guard Sector

Activists Block Shell's Arctic Drilling Quest

Greenpeace protestors dangling from a bridge on Thursday in Portland, Oregon, halted an icebreaker that Royal Dutch Shell needs in northern Alaska before it can

People in the News

DHS, Postal Service to Dedicate USCG Forever Stamp

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Postal Service leaders are scheduled to dedicate the United States Coast Guard Forever stamp during a ceremony Tuesday at Coast Guard Headquarters.

South China Sea Hotline in the Works

China and Southeast Asian nations have agreed to set up a foreign ministers' hotline to tackle emergencies in the disputed South China Sea, a senior official of

Three Rescued on Lake Tahoe

The Coast Guard and multiple agencies rescued three people Wednesday evening after they were reported missing on Lake Tahoe. At 9:45 p.m., Coast Guard Sector

Government Update

Thordon Bearings Secures AK Ferry Contract

Thordon Bearings has received an order to supply its COMPAC system to two Alaska Ferry newbuilds under construction at the Vigor Industrial shipyard in Ketchikan, Alaska.

West Africa's August Crude Exports to Asia to Slip

West African crude oil exports to Asia were expected to fall to 1.84 million barrels per day (bpd) in August, Reuters data and a survey of traders showed.     Slower

DHS, Postal Service to Dedicate USCG Forever Stamp

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Postal Service leaders are scheduled to dedicate the United States Coast Guard Forever stamp during a ceremony Tuesday at Coast Guard Headquarters.

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Security Maritime Standards Navigation Port Authority Salvage Ship Simulators Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Sonar Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1426 sec (7 req/sec)