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Oil Spills - Chemistry, Effects, and Clean up Methods
Transcript of Oil Spills - Chemistry, Effects, and Clean up Methods
By: Ibrahim Moh'dhasan
What is an oil spill ?
Water + Oil = ?
An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment.
These spills occur especially in marine areas , due to human activity, and are a form of pollution.
Typically crude oil will be spilled, but other oils such as gasoline, diesel and their by-products are just as harmful to the environment when spilled.
"Oil Spill" is the general term for any CRUDE OIL being released into the environment.
Hydrocarbons are molecules that contain the elements hydrogen and carbon.
These hydrocarbons come in various lengths and structures, from straight chains to branching chains to rings.
Hydrocarbons contain a lot of energy. Many of the things derived from crude oil like gasoline, diesel fuel, paraffin wax and so on take advantage of this energy.
Hydrocarbons can take on many different forms. The smallest hydrocarbon is methane (CH4), which is a gas that is a lighter than air.
Longer chains with 5 or more carbons are liquids. Very long chains are solids like wax or tar.
As soon as the oil hits the water, the water begins to push it outwards because they repel each other.
The marine environment destroys and deposits the excess hydrocarbons.
C3H8 (aq) + H2O (l) = ???
Why don't they mix ?
The reason why oil and water don't mix - is because water is a polar molecule.
Since the atoms in a water molecule are not arranged in a line the electrons in the molecule spend more time on the oxygen side of the molecule, giving this side a negative charge and the hydrogen side a positive charge.
Only other polar molecules can dissolve in water because polar molecules dissolve only in polar solvents and non-polar molecules dissolve only in non-polar solvents.
Oil on the other hand is made of carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms forming hydrocarbon chains, this makes them non-polar. What this means is that oil molecules are unable to dissolve in water and are attracted to each other more than water molecules.
Water molecules are much smaller than other molecules.
So a number of water molecules have to break their hydrogen bonds to accommodate oil molecules, which is another reason why oil doesn't easily mix with water.
How Does Oil Break Down?
How fast and far the oil spreads depends on the oils thickness and the waters surface tension.
During the first few days between 20% - 40% of the oil's mass turns into gas and loses most of its water-soluble hydrocarbons.
The only compounds remaining are more viscous and slow down the oil's spread across the water.
Not all of the oil remains at the surface of the water. 10% and 30% of the oil is deposited at the bottom of the body of water.
In most of these situations marine life is greatly affected.
Effects of Oil Spills
Oil spills have a negative effect on the marine environment, primarily on the organisms living in and around the water.
Oil spills can affect marine mammals in the following ways from internal or external absorption:
Birds, seals as well as other animals, sink or drown due to their oil filled feathers.
Hypothermia becomes more common due to lack of insulation and waterproofing abilities.
Malnourishment due to increase weight from oil on their bodies.
Damage to the airways and lungs
Interference with breeding
A Bird Covered in Oil
Effects of an Oil Spill on a Crab
Before and After
Sad Sea Otters
Dead Sea Life
Effects - Continued
Vegetation in and near the water may also be
effected if the oil reaches the root of the plant.
This in turn leads to a loss of food for other organisms.
Oil spills don't only effect the marine environment.
They can effect the local fishing industries negatively as well.
Decrease in useable fish leads to a decrease in income for the local community. Ultimately, leading to a decrease in economical standing.
The primary methods of cleaning up are:
Booms: floating barriers placed around the oil spill to contain it.
Skimmers: containers which collect the oil so it can be later removed.
Chemical oil dispersants: materials that break the oil down into a chemical constituent. Allowing the water to disperse and making it less harmful to wildlife.
In-Situ Burning: Involves igniting freshly spilled oil.
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"Everyday Chemistry - Why Oil and Water do not mix?." Human Touch Of Chemistry - Basic Concepts, Fun & Facts of Chemistry in Daily Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2013. <http://www.humantouchofchemistry.com/why-oil-and-water-do-not-mix.htm>.
"Everyday Chemistry - Why doesn't oil dissolve in water?." Human Touch Of Chemistry - Basic Concepts, Fun & Facts of Chemistry in Daily Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2013. <http://humantouchofchemistry.com/why-doesnt-oil-dissolve-in-water.htm>.
Freudenrich, Craig, and Ph.D.. "HowStuffWorks "How Oil Refining Works"." HowStuffWorks "Science". N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2013. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/oil-refining1.htm>.
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What is Oil composed of?
Oils are hydrocarbon chains consisting of primarily carbon chains bonded to hydrogen atoms. They are non-polar substances and are organic.
In-Situ Burning Method
By burning the oil in a controlled fashion, the bonds that form the hydrocarbon chain are excited by the energy and begin to decompose. The longer chains then produce smaller chains which are lighter than air and rise to the atmosphere.
Pros: This method is very effective when done in a controlled fashion (such as in booms) and has been able to remove up to 99% of the oil on the surface of the water.
Cons: Methane is a know pollutant and can be damaging to the atmosphere; the smoke clouds are known to reach 20 metres high as a result of burning.
Chemical Oil Dispersants
Detergent is usually an organic sodium salt which means that it is soluble in water giving out sodium ions and organic ions. The organic ions can bond to both the water molecules and the oil molecules which allows water to remove oil. This is because both oil and detergents have long hydrocarbon chains which allows the organic ions to bond with oil molecules and causes them to decompose.
Pros: Removes oil by sinking to the bottom of the water body.
Cons: May endanger wildlife in the water that is targeted