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Project Information

Title: Factors Responsible for Limiting the Degradation Rate of Exxon Valdez Oil in Prince William Sound Beaches-Submitted under the BAA

Project Year and Number: 2007: 070836

Other Fiscal Years and Numbers for this Project: 2009: 070836-A

Principal Investigator (PI): Michel Boufadel, Temple University

Assisting Personnel: Albert Venosa, Brian Wrenn

Research Location: Prince William Sound

Restoration Category: Research

Injured Resources Addressed: Not Specified

Abstract: This proposal will provide important data for explaining the cause of the lingering oil in many of the Prince William Sound beaches affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Because biodegradation of oil occurs at the oil-water interface, limitations occurring in the vicinity of that interface are hypothesized to be the primary reason for the lingering oil. In this study, we propose to investigate the two major sources of limitation: (1) environmental limitations, which involve nutrient concentrations (nitrogen, phosphorus, and dissolved oxygen) and their transport to the oil-water interface, and (2) the existence of an impenetrable layer or “skin” on the oiled sediment, which inhibits the bioavailability of oil. This often occurs when oil is stranded in the subsurface. The latter will be assessed by use of Scanning Electron Microscopic (SEM) examinations of oiled sediment. The effects of hydrodynamics will be assessed using tracer studies and 2-D or 3-D physics-based modeling of solute (i.e., nutrient) transport through the beach matrix. Hydrodynamics studies are important to understand the delivery (i.e., transport) of limiting nutrients to the oil-water interface. Extensive measurement of nutrient concentrations on PWS beaches will also be conducted to ascertain the extent of nutrient limitations on the biodegradation process. To our knowledge, this is the first rigorous study that addresses how the hydrodynamics of PWS beaches relate to the potential of bioremediation in relieving the aforementioned limitations. The proposed research will provide important inputs to an overall understanding of the transport and fate of oil in the PWS beaches and will provide guidance on how to accelerate the disappearance of the lingering oil present in the subsurface.


Geographic Regions Gulf of Alaska
Prince William Sound
Species Microorganisims - Microbes
Fields of Expertise Chemistry
Management & Policy
Physical/Chemical Oceanography
Resource Management
Technological Methods Data base management
Oil Spill Modeling
Professional Activity Data Management
Data Synthesis/Visualization
Field research and Data Collection
Ecosystems Estuarine
Marine – Benthic
Marine – Nearshore
Species Specific Research Issues Microorganisims - Nutrient/Energy transfer
Microorganisims - Population dynamics

Proposal: View PDF (240 KB)

Funding Recommendations: View

Funding Detail For: 2007 , 2008 , 2009

Quarterly Project Tasks For: 2007 , 2008 , 2009

Annual Reports: 2007: View (277 KB) 2008: View (119 KB) 2009: View (87 KB)

Final Report: Final Report Not Available - For Current Status Please Contact Us

Publications from this Project: None Available

More information may be available for this project under other years:

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Project Number Proposal Annual Reports Final Report Data
2009: 070836-A View (PDF) 2009: Due 09/01/2009
See Project 070836 See Project 070836