The treatment of biodegradation in models of sub-surface oil spills: A review and sensitivity study

Scott A. Socolofsky, Jonas Gros, Elizabeth North, Michel C. Boufadel, Thomas F. Parkerton, E. Eric Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Biodegradation is important for the fate of oil spilled in marine environments, yet parameterization of biodegradation varies across oil spill models, which usually apply constant first-order decay rates to multiple pseudo-components describing an oil. To understand the influence of model parameterization on the fate of subsurface oil droplets, we reviewed existing algorithms and rates and conducted a model sensitivity study. Droplets were simulated from a blowout at 2000 m depth and were either treated with sub-surface dispersant injection (2% dispersant to oil ratio)or untreated. The most important factor affecting oil fate was the size of the droplets, with biodegradation contributing substantially to the fate of droplets ≤0.5 mm. Oil types, which were similar, had limited influence on simulated oil fate. Model results suggest that knowledge of droplet sizes and improved estimation of pseudo-component biodegradation rates and lag times would enhance prediction of the fate and transport of subsurface oil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-219
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
StatePublished - Jun 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


  • Biodegradation
  • Blowout
  • Droplet size
  • Modeling
  • Oil
  • Sub-surface dispersant injection


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