Understanding the phase behavior of oil and water following the events of a deep water blowout is of great utility to the oil and gas industry. The interfacial phenomena occurring between the spilled oil and seawater are of great significance in the efforts of cleaning up, dispersing or burning the spilled oil. Regardless of the containment process, a good understanding is needed to aid in the processes of collection and separation of oil/water mixtures collected at varying depths and to efficiently design remedial measures.
This study will use oil samples from BP's Deepwater Horizon well and synthetic water samples representative of the Gulf of Mexico waters to measure the oil/water interfacial tension. Utilizing the Pendant Drop technique, interfacial tension measurements will be made at seafloor conditions of pressure and temperature. The conditions of pressure and temperature will be varied according to water depth to provide a thorough understanding of the behavior of each phase.
The low temperature and high pressure environment at the seafloor will require special laboratory equipment to simulate such conditions in the laboratory. For this reason an optical cell capable of withstanding such extreme conditions is being specially built for this project. The effect of chemical dispersants that were sprayed at the wellhead five thousand feet under the sea level and water salinity will serve as the other variables of this study, along with the conditions of pressure and temperature.