U.S. Geological Survey model could guide offshore oil spill cleanup

Feb. 7, 2014 at 6:08 AM

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Feb. 7 (UPI) -- A computer modeling system could help guide cleanup efforts for oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The USGS said it developed a system that can track the movement of sand and oil particles found in the Gulf of Mexico since the 2010 accident, which killed 11 rig workers and, BP estimated, caused approximately 2.5 million barrels of oil to be spilled into the gulf for nearly three months.

The USGS model examined the migration of what it called surface residual balls, a mix of oil and sand, during normal wave conditions and those experienced during tropical storms.

P. Soupy Dalyander, a USGS scientist who helped guide the modeling, said examining the migration of the residual material, or SRBs, can help guide cleanup efforts in the future.

"The techniques developed here can be applied to evaluate the potential alongshore movement of SRBs in other locations or from any future spill where large quantities of oil and sand mix in the surf zone," she said in a statement Thursday.

The USGS said some SRBs continue to wash up along the southern U.S. coastline because smaller-sized balls can't be moved under normal wave conditions.

A USGS report on the modeling system was published in this week's Marine Pollution Bulletin.

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