Modeling Crude Oil Fate and Transport in Freshwater

Document Type



Published in: Journal of Environmental Modeling and Assessment, September, 2020.


Accidental contaminant spills in surface freshwater drinking sources put the public at risk, lower consumer confidence, and are costly to clean up. Although crude oil is commonly transported in close proximity to drinking water supplies, much of the research has focused on the fate and transport of crude oil in marine and riverine systems, not reservoirs. This study illustrates an application of a proactive spill modeling method to simulate crude oil fate and transport in a reservoir using a combination of laboratory and modeling investigation. Dissolution trends of benzene, toluene, and ethylbenzene from hypothetical accidental input scenarios were estimated by solid-phase micro-extraction combined (SPME) with gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS) methods. Laboratory dissolution trends informed inputs to a hydrodynamic and water quality model, CE-QUAL-W2, which simulated the fate and transport of the crude oil components within a reservoir with a focus on water quality impacts at the drinking water intake. The method can be applied to proactively quantify and scientifically guide emergency response planning and management of drinking water reservoirs in the event of an crude oil accidental spill.