Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Clean-Up -- Kenai Peninsula/Gulf of Alaska July 1989

Biodegradation of oil spills


Outcomes of Oil Biodegradation on Fluid Properties

Biodegradation slowly destroys oil spills and oil seeps because of the sequential metabolic process of varied classes of substances within the oil (age.g., Bence et al., 1996). Whenever biodegradation occurs in an oil reservoir, the procedure considerably affects the liquid properties (e.g., Miiller et al., 1987) and hence the worth and producibility of an oil buildup. Especially, oil biodegradation usually:

  • increases oil viscosity (which reduces oil producibility)
  • lowers oil API gravity (which lowers the worth of the released oil)
  • boosts the asphaltene content (in accordance with the concentrated and aromatic hydrocarbon content)
  • escalates the concentration of certain metals
  • escalates the sulfur content
  • adds compounds such carboxylic acids and phenols

For example, in a collection of genetically associated natural oils from Oklahoma, Miiller et al. (1987) found these changes in oil properties with increasing degrees of biodegradation:

Vertical and lateral variants in oil properties (age.g., API gravity and viscosity) due to spatial variations into the level of oil biodegradation is mapped throughout a field making use of multiple geochemical resources. During industry development, these types of methods enable the targeting of "sweet-spots" (areas of less degraded oil) within a build up that's been suffering from biodegradation (see Predicting liquid Properties). Such straight and horizontal variations when you look at the degree of biodegradation typical end up in two categories:

  1. Variations because of length from oil-water contact. Because biodegradation does occur at or nearby the oil-water contact (e.g., Head et al., 2003), biodegraded oil columns frequently tend to be compositionally graded, with the most biodegraded oil occurring nearby the oil-water contact
  1. Variants as a result of "pulsed" nature of reservoir stuffing. Considering that the time scale of biodegradation (discussed below) is oftentimes just like the time scale of reservoir asking (age.g., Larter et al., 2003), a biodegraded oil line may contains a variety of oil that came first in the reservoir (right here called the "primary charge") and subsequent pulses of oil that came later (right here known as the "secondary costs" on buildup). The primary fee can be even more biodegraded compared to the secondary charge, because the major charge has been put through in-reservoir biodegradation for a longer time period. Consequently, depending on the migration paths to the reservoir, vertical variations when you look at the general abundance of "primary" vs. "secondary" fees may cause straight variants in the oil substance properties (e.g., API gravity and viscosity).

During oil biodegradation, oil liquid properties change because different courses of compounds in petroleum have actually different susceptibilities to biodegradation (age.g., Goodwin et al., 1983). The early phases of oil biodegradation are characterized by losing n-paraffins (n-alkanes or regular alkanes) accompanied by loss in acyclic isoprenoids (age.g., norpristane, pristine, phytane, etc.). Compared with those compound groups, various other ingredient classes (e.g., extremely branched and cyclic saturated hydrocarbons including aromatic compounds) are more resistant to biodegradation. However, even those more-resistant substance courses tend to be sooner or later destroyed as biodegradation profits. Larter et al. (2005) estimates that greatly degraded natural oils have usually lost in the purchase of 50per cent of the size.

Effects of Oil Biodegradation on Geochemistry

Peters and Moldowan (1993) proposed a 1-10 scale by which the degree of biodegradation of an oil can be ranked in line with the analysis associated with the oil geochemistry (e.g., using the existence or lack of various biomarkers having various susceptibilities to biodegradation, with "1" indicating extremely very early degradation (limited loss in n-paraffins) and "10" indicating severely degraded oil).



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