Fate of diluted bitumen spilled in the coastal waters of British Columbia, Canada.


Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Institute of Ocean Sciences 9860 W. Saanich Rd., P.O. Box 6000, Sidney, B.C., V8L 4B2, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]


There is public concern about the behaviour of spilled diluted bitumen (dilbit) in marine and estuarine waters. We provide a preliminary assessment of the results of laboratory experiments and models, in the context of environmental conditions in the coastal waters of British Columbia. Most dilbit spilled within this region would likely float at the surface and be transported to shore by winds and currents. Fresh dilbit is too light to sink in coastal waters. Highly weathered dilbit could sink where salinity is less than 14, typically only near river mouths and in the top 1-3 m of fjords after heavy rainfall. Subsurface plumes of weathered dilbit could re-emerge at the surface. Sinking oil-particle aggregates are unlikely to form in coastal waters. However, dilbit could be entrained below the surface by wave mixing during storms and to depths of 150 m by coherent mixing in the Haro Strait tidal convergence zone.


Dilbit,Diluted bitumen,North coastal british columbia,Oil,Particles,Strait of Georgia,

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