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Title: Impact of using chemical dispersants on the microbial response and formation of marine oil snow (MOS) in northeast Atlantic waters
Author: Duran Suja, Laura
Awarding Body: Heriot-Watt University
Current Institution: Heriot-Watt University
Date of Award: 2019
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Oil spills are one of the most catastrophic anthropogenic pollution events in the marine environment. With a rapid rise in economic development and energy demand around the world, marine petroleum exploitation and transportation has increased steadily, and with it also the risk for oil spills which often cause detrimental impacts to marine ecosystems. In the last years, an increase in oil activity in the northeast Atlantic has spurred interest in studying hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria in this region, particularly as these organisms are major actuators in the breakdown and ultimate fate of oil when it enters the sea. Of particular interest is the Faroe-Shetland Channel (FSC) where oil recovery is occurring and future exploration into its deep waters (beyond 500m depth) could increase the risk of major oil spills and that would be increasingly more challenging to combat. The FSC is notable for its predominance of the oil and gas sector, as well as being a unique hydrodynamic region defined by contrasting water mixing zones, variable physical conditions and large water masses that flow in opposite directions. It can thus be considered a region of interest to further research in trying to understand how autochthonous microbial populations would respond in the event of an oil spill in this region, identifying which oil-degrading species are most effective responders and degraders of the oil, and how certain factors, such as dispersant applications, might affect their response and activities. As reported during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, the formation of marine oil snow (MOS), which was observed in unprecedented quantities floating on the sea surface within 2 weeks following the onset of the spill, predicting MOS formation in the event of a spill in the FSC is of significant interest. MOS formation, and its subsequent sedimentation, is one of the most important factors contributing to the vertical transportation of oil to the seafloor. To provide new insight into the fate of crude oil in the event of a spill in the FSC, this project firstly set to investigate the formation of MOS in waters of the FSC, the parameters influencing this process, and measure the oil biodegradation kinetics. Secondly, data collected from this first stage of investigation was then used and fed into models to understand the fate of oil entry in the FSC. This is an ongoing study in collaboration with a master student, so data won’t be presented in this thesis. Thirdly, the effect(s) of different dispersants on the biodegradation of the oil and its effect on the microbial response in the FSC was determined. The findings from this project are expected to provide a new level of understanding on the fate of oil in the FSC, the factors that might influence this, and information to help contingency efforts for combatting future spills in this region.
Supervisor: Gutierrez, Associate Tony Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available