Instability study of oil slicks contained by oil boom systems

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Mechanical Engineering

First Committee Member

Kau-Fui Vincent Wong, Committee Chair


In this fundamental study of the instability that occurs in oil slicks contained by a single oil boom, the following factors are considered: gravity, interfacial tension, current velocity and depth, boom draft, oil viscosity and density. An advanced VOF (Volume of Fluid) algorithm has been developed to calculate the oil-water flow. The surface tension is modeled by CSF (Continuum Surface Force) method. About 1000 cases with large ranges of parameters have been investigated numerically. Some basic phenomena reported by other researchers are also found in the present numerical simulations. The numerical results give us a better understanding of the factors that play a part when a boom system fails to contain the oil. Among the numerous results obtained, it is observed that the stability of the oil slick movement is very sensitive to the Froude number, while the effect of the interfacial tension is negligible in the drainage failure and critical accumulation failure. The highly viscous oil slicks are subject to large-size oscillations; the low viscous slicks are easily stirred by the current and mixed with the water. The slicks with the oil viscosity of about 100cs are more stable. The depth of the water also affects the oil containment significantly. This is true especially when the current depth is shallow. In the study of the effect of the oil density, it is found that, as the criteria of the instability, the reduced gravity is more appropriate than the Froude number. The numerical model has also been applied to study the performance of an oil boom arrangement, the satisfactory result shows the promise that it can be used in aiding the oil boom design.


Applied Mechanics; Engineering, Mechanical; Engineering, Environmental

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