Oil entrapment in sea ice: Field experiments for 3-d X-ray microtomographic investigations (FEOISI (Field Experiment Oil in Sea Ice))

The aim of the planned experiment is to investigate the distribution and migration oil of in natural sea ice by X-ray computed tomography imaging. Results are compared proxy- with data from laboratory in- situ experiments (5- 10 cm) up to ship tank experiments (50-100 m).

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Project type

  • field work
  • arctic field grant (afg)


  • cryosphere
  • technology and engineering

Project Keywords

  • cryosphere / sea ice / ice growth/melt

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The aim of the planned experiment is to investigate distribution and migration oil of in natural sea ice. With increasing interest in exploration and operation of Arctic oil resources, this study is a step towards a fundamental framework of hazard management of oil spills in ice covered waters. Sea ice contains pores and channels forming a network for effective porosity. The interconnectivity of the pores gives rise to infiltration of oil in the winter season. During the growth season (October- March) oil becomes quickly entrained and encapsulated in the ice (12 to 48 hours) and remains trapped in the ice as relative static and discrete layer [4]. With increasing ice temperature in spring, the interconnectivity of the pores increases and gives rise to movement of oil to the surface. Several field experiments with release of crude oil have been conducted since the early 1970's. Earlier studies of incorporation and migration of oil in ice were mostly based on two- dimensional investigations such as photography, spectral reflectance measurements and observation of thin sections under crossed polarized microscope. However, the only way to investigate the distribution of oil in the sea ice pore space and the immiscible displacement of brine and oil phases is though 3- D tomography. While laboratory- grown sea ice can be investigated as a proxy, studies have to be validated with field observations on naturally- grown sea ice. Comparisons of non- destructive 3- D images from laboratory and field experiments are therefore essential. The goal of this study is to conduct X-ray- micro-tomography (XRD-?CT) with shortest possible delay between field sampling and measurements at the European Synchrotron Facility (ESRF). At ESRF, (i) phase-contrast 3-D imaging will be applied to distinguish the distribution of ice, brine, air and crude oil in the porous space of sea ice and (ii) time- resolved imaging will be used to examine migration and drainage of oil through brine channels during the process of warming and internal melting. Fieldwork and analysis are part of my Ph.D. thesis within the project "Microscale interaction of oil with sea ice for detection and environmental risk management in sustainable operations (MOSIDEO)" ( of the Research Council of Norway. MOSIDEO aims to understand the oil fate and dispersion models of oil in sea ice- covered waters, and advance radar remote sensing techniques, supporting the decision process of stakeholders in risk assessment and spill response. To do so results from field experiment will be compared with data from laboratory experiments, with set-ups ranging from in- situ experiments (5-10 cm) to ship tank experiments (50-100 m). The understanding of the process of oil migration is perquisite for the prediction of the optimal timing of oil spill clean-up measures, which is restricted to a narrow window of opportunity.

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