Modeling oil dispersion under breaking waves. Part II: Coupling Lagrangian particle tracking with population balance model

Fangda Cui, Lin Zhao, Cosan Daskiran, Thomas King, Kenneth Lee, Joseph Katz, Michel C. Boufadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Oil dispersion under a deep-water plunging breaker of height 0.15 m was studied by coupling the Lagrangian particle tracking code (NEMO3D) with the population balance model (VDROP). The wave hydrodynamics obtained in Part I (Cui et al. in Environ Fluid Mech 2020 (in press)) was used as input. It was observed that droplet inertia and major forces on droplets significantly impacted the transport of oil droplets under wave conditions, and neglecting it caused less entrainment into the water column and horizontal spread of oil plume. For droplets less than 400 microns, the droplet size distribution (DSD) tended to follow a power-law distribution with an exponent close to − 2.3, which was consistent with earlier experimental observations by Delvigne and Sweeney (Oil Chem Pollut 4(4):281–310, 1988). The distribution of large size droplets evolved with time and showed agreement with a power-law distribution having an exponent of − 9.7 about 20 s after the passage of the wave train. Reducing the interfacial tension enhanced droplets breakup and increased the exponent of power-law distribution to − 6.1 for droplets smaller than 400 microns. It was also found that neglecting the vertical gradient of eddy diffusivity led to the accumulation of oil droplets in low eddy diffusivity regions at the bottom part of the wave breaker. The investigation herein could be used to obtain design values for breakers that could be used in oil spill models to predict the oil droplet size distribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1553-1578
Number of pages26
JournalEnvironmental Fluid Mechanics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


  • Lagrangian particle tracking
  • Oil dispersion
  • Plunging breaker
  • VDROP model


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