Flume tank studies to elucidate the fate and behavior of diluted bitumen spilled at sea

Thomas L. King, Brian Robinson, Michel Boufadel, Kenneth Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


An economical alternative to conventional crudes, Canadian bitumen, harvested as a semi-liquid, is diluted with condensate to make it viable to transport by pipeline to coastal areas where it would be shipped by tankers to global markets. Not much is known about the fate of diluted bitumen (dilbit) when spilled at sea. For this purpose, we conducted dilbit (Access Western Blend; AWB and Cold Lake Blend; CLB) weathering studies for 13. days in a flume tank containing seawater. After six days of weathering, droplets detached from the AWB slick and were dense enough to sink in seawater. The density of CLB also increased, but at a slower rate compared to AWB, which was attributed to the high concentration of alkylated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in it, which are more resistant to weathering. An empirical, Monod-type model was introduced and was found to closely simulate the increase in oil density with time. Such a model could be used within oil spill models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-37
Number of pages6
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 15 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


  • Dilbit
  • Diluted bitumen
  • Flume tank
  • Natural weathering
  • Non-conventional oil
  • Submerged oil


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