What was released? Assessing the physical properties and chemical composition of petroleum and products of burned oil
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The severity of oil spills depends on the quantity of material released and its physical and chemical properties. The total amount of petroleum spilled during the Deepwater Horizon incident and the relative fractions of the chemical compound classes of the Macondo oil were obtained by measurements, observations, and model calculations, with a significant amount of uncertainty. Because petroleum is an extremely complex mixture of many thousands or more of gaseous, liquid, and solid constituents, full elucidation of their compositions at the molecular level is impossible with presently available analytical techniques. This paper reviews published work on widely used analytical techniques and points out that scientists’ varying approaches to research questions and preferences for methods of analysis constitute a source of uncertainty. In addition, the focus is on two technical advancements developed over the last two decades, namely two-dimensional gas chromatography and Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry. Both were particularly valuable in the analysis of the spilled Macondo oil and its weathering products. Among the different processes of alteration of the original oil, only in situ oil burning is dealt with in this paper. This review reveals the paucity of data on this mitigation process and shows the need for more systematic coordination of methods in burned oil research studies.
© The Author(s), 2021. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Rullkoetter, J., & Farrington, J. W. What was released? Assessing the physical properties and chemical composition of petroleum and products of burned oil. Oceanography, 34(1), (2021): 44–57, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2021.116.
Suggested CitationRullkoetter, J., & Farrington, J. W. (2021). What was released? Assessing the physical properties and chemical composition of petroleum and products of burned oil. Oceanography, 34(1), 44–57.
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