Gravity induced densification of floating crude oil by granular materials: Effect of particle size and surface morphology

Sci Total Environ. 2016 Jun 15;556:146-53. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.01.214. Epub 2016 Mar 11.


Densification and sedimentation of floating crude oil to the bottom of water column reduces the radius of a spill and its mobility, preventing direct contamination of beaches, coastal flora and fauna. Performances of different natural granular materials were evaluated for capturing efficiency of floating fresh South Louisiana crude oil. The granular materials studied were quartz sand with medium (20-30mesh) and fine (40-100mesh) particle size, limestone with coarse (4-10mesh) and medium (16-40mesh) particle size, beach sand (20-80mesh), and clay (kaolin with ferric oxide; passing 200mesh). Beach sand (mixture of quartz and limestone 20-80mesh) and limestone (16-40mesh) demonstrated better performance for capture, densification and submergence of the crude oil among the materials evaluated. The behavior of granular particles with the hydrophobic phase can be classified as (1) immersion entrapment inside the hydrophobic phase (slurry), and (2) partial encapsulation of the hydrophobic phase by a single layer of particles (raft). With crude oil, the particles were primarily entrapped within the hydrophobic phase. Study of the effect of particle size and morphology (i.e., porosity) of the granular materials on capture performance showed that average surface pore size did not have a significant effect on aggregation with oil, however, higher capture efficiency was observed with materials of higher surface porosity (beach sand and limestone). The experiments revealed that there is a critical particle size range (passing 10mesh) which resulted in more effective aggregation of the granular materials with crude oil.

Keywords: Aggregation; Crude oil; Floating oil; Granular materials; Microscopy; Oil spills.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation / methods*
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Louisiana
  • Particle Size
  • Petroleum / analysis*
  • Petroleum Pollution*
  • Porosity
  • Silicon Dioxide / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*


  • Petroleum
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Silicon Dioxide