Investigating the effect of oil spills
on the environment and public health.
revert menu
Funding Source: Bridge Grants (RFP-III)

Project Overview

Biodegradability of MC252 Oil-Sand Aggregates on Rapidly Eroding Coastal Beach Environments

Principal Investigator
Louisiana State University
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Member Institutions
Louisiana State University, University of Hawaii at Manoa


The proposed work would occur on Fourchon Beach, a coastal headland consisting of nine miles of fairly pristine sandy beaches and dunes, backed by wetlands and tidal channels, located between Belle Pass tidal inlet on the west of Elmer's Island on the east in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. MC252 oil first arrived in large quantities on Fourchon Beach on or around May 10, 2010. Through the ensuing months, waves of additional emulsified oil, droplets and tarballs appeared along Fourchon Beach and the surrounding marshes, particularly during "tidal washover events" driven by waves associated with tropical storms. A unique oil form created under these conditions was an aggregate of sand and emulsified oil, typically 0.1-5 cm in diameter, termed small surface residue balls (SSRBs). These SSRBs are essentially oil-free at the surface, with an oily core at the center of the aggregate. The work described below would make critical measurements on the factors controlling biodegradability of these SSRB aggregates before they are impacted further by storms or are removed during response activities.

This research was made possible by a grant from BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.