Behavior and dynamics of bubble breakup in gas pipeline leaks and accidental subsea oil well blowouts

Binbin Wang, Scott A. Socolofsky, Chris C.K. Lai, E. Eric Adams, Michel C. Boufadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Subsea oil well blowouts and pipeline leaks release oil and gas to the environment through vigorous jets. Predicting the breakup of the released fluids in oil droplets and gas bubbles is critical to predict the fate of petroleum compounds in the marine water column. To predict the gas bubble size in oil well blowouts and pipeline leaks, we observed and quantified the flow behavior and breakup process of gas for a wide range of orifice diameters and flow rates. Flow behavior at the orifice transitions from pulsing flow to continuous discharge as the jet crosses the sonic point. Breakup dynamics transition from laminar to turbulent at a critical value of the Weber number. Very strong pure gas jets and most gas/liquid co-flowing jets exhibit atomization breakup. Bubble sizes in the atomization regime scale with the jet-to-plume transition length scale and follow −3/5 power-law scaling for a mixture Weber number.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-86
Number of pages15
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
StatePublished - Jun 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


  • Bubble size distribution
  • Gas bubble
  • Jet
  • Particle breakup
  • Plume
  • Subsea oil well blowout


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