Hydrodynamic Characterization of Deep-Sea Blowouts


Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems (C-IMAGE):

Experimental investigation and modeling of multiphase flow phenomena under extreme environmental conditions in relation to the deep-sea oil spill 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico.




Simeon Pesch, M.Sc. (2nd and 3rd project period: C-IMAGE II and III; GoMRI RFP IV and VI)

Dipl.-Ing. Katrin Laqua (1st project period: C-IMAGE; GoMRI RFP I)



This research is made possible by a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI).



Motivation and Objective

Particularly since the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) accident in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, where about 800 million liters of oil and huge amounts of natural gas leaked from the wellhead during a period of 87 days, numerous scientists of different research fields are trying to analyze and model the fate of oil and gas after deep-sea oil spills for cleaning measures and for the development of response strategies as well as in order to get a deeper insight into the physical, chemical and biological processes involved. Due to the extreme environmental conditions in the deep sea (4 °C and 15 MPa at the wellhead in the case of the DWH blowout) and the multiphase character of the system the analysis and the modeling of the blowout are challenging.

The main goal of our project group is the experimental investigation of the crude oil dispersion and the further propagation of the oil droplets and gas bubbles under the specific high-pressure conditions. Moreover, oil biodegradation and physical properties of the hydrocarbon mixture under simulated deep-sea conditions are determined experimentally. The data are provided for modeling the fate of the oil masses throughout the ocean, both for the DWH oil spill and for potential future oil-spill scenarios.


Conceptual model sketch depicting the influence of high pressure on phenomena related to deep-sea oil spills


Experimental Approaches

For the experimental investigations under simulated deep-sea conditions several high-pressure facilities have been developed, built and commissioned. Sophisticated measurement technologies such as high-definition camera recording, high-speed Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) and an endoscopic particle size measurement system from the Sopat GmbH are applied.


Overview poster depicting the experimental facilities and methods for deep-sea research at TUHH


Project Partners

  • University of South Florida, College of Marine Science – Lead Institution.
  • University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science – Integrated modeling of hydrodynamics and oil fate.
  • University of Calgary, PRG – Partitioning of hydrocarbons.
  • University of Western Australia, School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering – Gas hydrate formation.
  • Texas A&M University, Zachry Department of Civil Engineering – Near-field modeling of deep-sea blowouts.
  • Eurotechnica GmbH – Physical properties of hydrocarbons under high pressure.
  • TUHH, Institute of Product Development and Mechanical Engineering Design – Construction and application of high-pressure laboratory facilities.
  • TUHH, Institute of Technical Biocatalysis Biodegradation of hydrocarbons under high pressure.


Selected Publications

  • Pesch, S.; Knopf, R.; Aman, Z.M.; Paris, C.B.; Hoffmann, M.; Schlüter, M.: Experimental Investigation and Prediction of Droplet Size Distributions in Turbulent Oil-in-Water Jets: Scale-up from Lab to Large Scale, 7th Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, New Orleans, LA, 2019, oral presentation.
  • Malone, K.; Pesch, S.; Schlüter, M.; Krause, D. (2018): Oil Droplet Size Distribution in Deep-Sea Blowouts: Influence of Pressure and Dissoved Gases. Environmental Science & Technology, 52(11), pp. 6326-6333, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b00587.
  • Pesch, S.; Jaeger, P.; Jaggi, A.; Malone, K.; Hoffmann, M.; Krause, D.; Oldenburg, T.B.P.; Schlüter, M. (2018): Rise Velocity of Live-Oil Droplets in Deep-Sea Oil Spills, Environmental Engineering Science, 35(4), pp. 289-299, DOI: 10.1089/ees.2017.0319.
  • Pesch, S.; Maly, M.; Jaeger, P.; Malone, K.; Krause, D.; Schlüter, M.: Experimental Investigation of the Rise Behavior of Gas-Saturated Crude-Oil Droplets under High Pressure, 6th Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, New Orleans, LA, 2018, oral presentation.
  • Pesch, S.; Jaeger, P.; Oldenburg, T.B.P.; Hoffmann, M.; Schlüter, M.: Experimental Investigation of Live-Oil Behavior under Artificial Deep-Sea Conditions, Proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium on Multiscale Multiphase Process Engineering (MMPE 2017), Toyama, Japan, 2017, poster presentation and conference paper, pp. 235-238, awarded the Outstanding Poster Presentation Award.
  • Schlüter, M.; Malone, K.; Pesch, S.; Krause, D.; Paris, C.B.; Aman, Z.; Jaggi, A.; Oldenburg, T.B.P.; Jaeger, P.: Implications of Pressure and Temperature Conditions on the Behavior of Deep Blowouts, AAAS Annual Meeting 2017, Boston, MA, 2017, oral presentation.
  • Pesch, S.; Bühre, L.; Malone K.; Kenne, G.; Jaeger, P.; Jaggi, A.; Oldenburg, T.B.P.; Hoffmann, M; Krause, D.; Schlüter, M.: Gas Saturation Effects on the Rise Behavior of Oil Droplets Under Deep-Sea Conditions, 5th Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference, New Orleans, LA, 2017, oral presentation.
  • Laqua, K.; Malone, K.; Hoffmann, M.; Krause, D.; Schlüter, M. (2016): Methane bubble rise velocities under deep-sea conditions - influence of initial shape deformation, Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects 505(2016), pp. 106-117, DOI: 10.1016/j.colsurfa.2016.01.041.
  • Seemann, R.; Malone, K.; Laqua, K.; Schmidt, J.; Meyer, A.; Krause, D.; Schlüter, M.: A new high-pressure laboratory setup for the investigation of deep-sea oil spill scenarios under in-situ conditions, Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Environmental Hydraulics, Singapore, 2014, pp. 340-343.


Press and Outreach

  • Journey to Planet Earth – Dispatches from the Gulf 2: Trailer.



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