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


  • 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.

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Socolofsky, S. A., Gros, J., North, E., Boufadel, M. C., Parkerton, T. F., & Adams, E. E.

citation count

  • 12

publication date

  • June 2019