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Integrated modeling approach for fate and transport of submerged oil and oil-particle aggregates in a freshwater riverine environment

January 1, 2016

The Enbridge Line 6B pipeline release of diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River downstream of Marshall, Michigan, U.S.A., in July 2010 was one of the largest oil spills into freshwater in North American history. A portion of the oil interacted with river sediment and submerged requiring the development and implementation of new approaches for detection and recovery of oil mixed with river sediment. Hydrodynamic and sediment transport modeling became an integral part of containment and recovery operations for decision support about the potential fate and migration of submerged oil and oiled sediment. Three models were developed for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cover a range of spatial scales of interest to onsite operations. Two-dimensional (2D) hydrodynamic and sediment transport models from the Environmental Fluid Dynamics Code and the sediment bed model SEDZLJ1 were used to simulate potential resuspension, migration, and deposition of submerged oil and oiled sediment along a 38-mile reach of the Kalamazoo River affected by the oil from Marshall to Kalamazoo. An algorithm was added to SEDZLJ to represent three additional particle size classes of oilparticle aggregates (OPAs) with a range of sizes, specific gravities, and settling velocities. Field and laboratory experiments and flume tests were done to support the numerical modeling of OPAs. A three-dimensional hydrodynamic model was developed to simulate hydrodynamics and OPA tracking through Morrow Lake, the most downstream impoundment. This model incorporated wind and dam operations into high and low flow, lake drawdown, and containment simulations. Finally, a 2D unstructured grid model, HydroSed2D, was used to simulate flows and sediment transport along 1- to 2-mile segments of the Kalamazoo River around islands and through side channels and backwater areas that are particularly prone to submerged oil deposition.

Integrated models could be developed quickly due to the availability of information and services combined with spill response operations that included: bathymetry and topography data, fieldbased geomorphic mapping of submerged oil, and discharge measured at U.S. Geological Survey streamflow gauges. Modeling results were included in a multiple-lines-of-evidence approach that was used by the Federal On-Scene Coordinator and operations staff for decision-making related to assessment and recovery of submerged oil, as well as net environmental benefit analysis. Similar modeling approaches will likely be useful for future oil spills in riverine environments.

Publication Year 2016
Title Integrated modeling approach for fate and transport of submerged oil and oil-particle aggregates in a freshwater riverine environment
Authors Faith A. Fitzpatrick, Rex Johnson, Zhenduo Zhu, David Waterman, Richard D. McCulloch, Earl Hayter, Marcelo H. Garcia, Michel C. Boufadel, Timothy Dekker, Jacob S. Hassan, David T. Soong, Christopher J. Hoard, Kenneth Lee
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70178095
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wisconsin Water Science Center