Oil biodegradation in permeable marine sediments: Effects of benthic pore-water advection and solute exchange

Xiaolong Geng, Christopher H. Barker, Amy MacFadyen, Michel C. Boufadel, Kenneth Lee, Dalina L. Thrift-Viveros, Robert Jones, Caitlin O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Oil spills have been recognized as among the worst kinds of environmental disasters, causing severe coastal ecological and economic damages. Although benthic flow and solute fluxes are known to have strong impacts on fate and transport of oil deposited within marine sediments, their endogenous mechanisms still remain to be uncovered. In this paper, simulations of flow and solute transport processes along with hydrocarbon biodegradation were conducted in a cylindrical benthic chamber system to investigate influences of benthic hydrodynamics on oil biodegradation in permeable marine sediments. Results show that ripple-flow interactions create subsurface recirculation cells whereby seawater infiltrates into the benthic sediments at ripple troughs while groundwater discharges near the crests. It results in a spatially varied oil biodegradation rate in marine sediments. Significant oil biodegradation occurs near sediment ripple troughs due to direct oxygen recharge, while biodegradation of oil deposited uphill becomes slow due to limited oxygen replenishment. Oil biodegradation decreases subsurface oxygen content, and consequently impedes discharge of oxygen from benthic sediments. Our results reveal a dynamic interaction between oil biodegradation and benthic flow and solute transport processes, which has strong implications for predicting oil persistence and biodegradation within marine sediments and its associated impacts on benthic biogeochemical processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number129211
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - Aug 15 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Benthic flow and solute exchange
  • Numerical, modeling
  • Oil biodegradation
  • Sediment chamber


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