Recent Publications

A laboratory study of particulate and gaseous emissions from crude oil and crude oil-dispersant contaminated seawater due to breaking waves

Afshar-Mohajer N, Li C, Rule A, Katz J, Koehler K. A laboratory study of particulate and gaseous emissions from crude oil and crude oil-dispersant contaminated seawater due to breaking waves. Atmospheric Environment [Internet]. 2018;179 :177-186. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Crude oil spill incidents occur frequently causing a verity of occupational, ecological and environmental problems. Dispersants are applied to enhance the dispersion rate of crude oil slicks into the water column. In this study, the aerosol size distribution from 10 nm to 20 μm, total particle-bound aromatic hydrocarbons (pPAH) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are measured in a 6 x 0.3 x 0.6m tank as plunging breaking waves entrain oil slicks. The experiments are performed for seawater with slicks of crude oil, crude oil-dispersant mixture and dispersant only. The measurements investigate the effects of wave energy and slick properties on the temporal evolution of the emissions. The total number concentrations of particles originating from the oil dispersant
mixture are 1–2 orders of magnitude higher than those of crude oil across the entire nano-scale range, reaching 100x for 20 nm particles. Conversely, the differences in concentration are small in the micron range. The average concentrations of pPAH are variable but similar (150–270 ng/m3). The VOC concentrations for crude oil-dispersant mixtures are 2–3 times lower than those of crude oil, presumably due to the surfactant effect on mass diffusion. The drastic increase in ultrafine particle concentrations may raise concerns about effects of inhalation by cleanup workers and downstream communities though VOC emissions reduce. Findings through this study provide insight into how the spray of dispersant may change the ratio of airborne particulate matter and VOC emissions from seawater due to natural processes. 
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Films of Bacteria at Interfaces (FBI): Remodeling of Fluid Interfaces by Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Niepa, T.H.R. VLLRGMLDSK. Films of Bacteria at Interfaces (FBI): Remodeling of Fluid Interfaces by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Scientific Reports [Internet]. 2017;7. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Bacteria at fluid interfaces endure physical and chemical stresses unique to these highly asymmetric environments. The responses of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 and PA14 to a hexadecane-water interface are compared. PAO1 cells form elastic films of bacteria, excreted polysaccharides and proteins, whereas PA14 cells move actively without forming an elastic film. Studies of PAO1 mutants show that, unlike solid-supported biofilms, elastic interfacial film formation occurs in the absence of flagella, pili, or certain polysaccharides. Highly induced genes identified in transcriptional profiling include those for putative enzymes and a carbohydrate metabolism enzyme, alkB2; this latter gene is not upregulated in PA14 cells. Notably, PAO1 mutants lacking the alkB2 gene fail to form an elastic layer. Rather, they form an active film like that formed by PA14. These findings demonstrate that genetic expression is altered by interfacial confinement, and suggest that the ability to metabolize alkanes may play a role in elastic film formation at oil-water interfaces.
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Biotransformation of natural gas and oil compounds associated with marine oil discharges

Brakstad OG, Almas I, Krause DF. Biotransformation of natural gas and oil compounds associated with marine oil discharges. Chemosphere [Internet]. 2017;182 :555-558. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Field data from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) suggested that oxidation of gas compounds stimulated biodegradation of oil compounds in the deep sea plume. We performed experiments with local seawater from a Norwegian fjord to examine if the presence of dissolved gas compounds (methane, ethane and propane) affected biodegradation of volatile oil compounds, and if oil compounds likewise affected gas compound oxidation. The results from the experiment showed comparable oil compound biotransformation rates in seawater at 5 °C between seawater with and without soluble gases. Gas oxidation was not affected by the presence of volatile oil compounds. Contrary to DWH deep sea plume data, propane oxidation was not faster than methane oxidation. These data may reflect variations between biodegradation of oil and gas in seawater environments with different history of oil and gas exposure.
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