RFP-V Drennan: Oil Spill Transport in a Coupled Wind-Wave Current Environment

The Investigation of Oil Spill Transport in a Coupled Wind-Wave Current Environment Using Simulation and Laboratory Studies project is lead by P.I. William M. Drennan, University of Miami.

Researcher William Drennan

Researcher William Drennan

This project aims at studying the transport of oil droplets in upper oceans subject to actions of Langmuir cells and breaking waves and the transport of oiled sprays in wind over waves. The focus of study is on the effects of wind-wave-current interactions when the wave influences are significant, including hurricane conditions. The feedback mechanisms among wind, waves, and upper ocean currents and turbulence play an essential role in the transport of oil slicks. Despite their importance, due to the complexity of the problem, previous simulation and measurement studies were unable to adequately capture the interaction dynamics. Existing models often reply on simplified approximations, such as flat sea surface treatment, vortex force approximation of Langmuir cells using uniform and constant Stokes drift, ad hoc prescribed sea surface roughness for marine atmospheric boundary layer.

The specific objective of this study are: (i) establish a high-fidelity computational framework for the interactions among wind, waves, and currents in upper oceans; (ii) use the unique capabilities of windwave tanks in the SUSTAIN laboratory to obtain accurate measurement data in air and water with wave phases resolved; (iii) use the laboratory study to provide input for the LES; (iv) establish an advanced simulation tool for the modeling and prediction of oil transport in both water and air under a variety of wind and wave conditions; and (v) assess the effects of wind and waves with various intensities, including hurricane conditions, on the transport of oil.

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This project was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) in the RFP-V funding program.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit http://gulfresearchinitiative.org/.