Gulf Integrated Spill Response Consortium

Grant awarded to:

Elizabeth North (UMCES)

Team includes:
Ian Mitchell
Younjoo Lee
Jeremy Testa
Anne Thessen
Sean McGinnis

Funded by:
The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative

back to E. North
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The overall goal of our research program is to improve our understanding of the fate, transport and transformation of oil in the environment. We are part of the Gulf Integrated Spill Response (GISR) Consortium which is composed of 21 investigators from 12 insitutions and is lead by Piers Chapman at Texas A&M. Our role within the GISR program is to advance our understanding and ability to predict the transport of oil by integrating our collaborators' findings from laboratory, field, and modeling research into one computer program. We will use the particle tracking model LTRANS to track hydrocarbons from the well head to the coasts, at both the surface of the water and in the subsurface.


We have the following specific objectives:

1. We will enhance and apply the particle tracking model LTRANS to simulate the trajectory of dissolved and particulate hydrocarbons in different sea states and from the subsurface to the inland bays. We will adapt LTRANS to incorporate information from multi-phase plume models as well as nested hydrodynamic models to calculate particle trajectories seamlessly through multiple flow fields.

2. We will enhance the simulation of oil within LTRANS. During transport, oil is subject to a variety of weathering processes. These depend on the type of oil, and include evaporation, dissolution, emulsification, photo-oxidation, biodegradation, sedimentation, and natural (and potentially chemically induced) dispersion. These processes will be included or enhanced in LTRANS.

3. The enhanced model system will be validated through comparison of simulation results with hindcasts of the Deepwater Horizon spill. We will develop an extensive database of observations from Deepwater Horizon to facilitate model validation efforts.

4. After gaining confidence in the model system, we will run a suite of simulations with multiple ocean states and response strategies (e.g., use of dispersants) to create probability maps of shoreline and subsurface impact in the event of a spill in several regions within the Gulf of Mexico (e.g., west Texas shelf).


We will substantially enhance our understanding and ability to predict subsurface plumes of oil and track them from the subsurface to the surface to land. The entire computer model or portions of it will be useful for federal, state, and non-profit agencies during responses and for assessments of environmental impacts. In addition, because the model will be designed to adapt to multiple hydrodynamic model grids and domains, it will be applicable to all regions in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.