Dataset for: Simulating a spill of diluted bitumen: Environmental weathering and submergence in a model freshwater system
2019-12-12T14:37:15Z (GMT) by
The main petroleum product transported through pipelines in Canada is diluted bitumen (dilbit), a semi-liquid form of heavy crude oil mixed with natural gas condensates to facilitate transport. The weathering, fate, behaviour, and environmental effects of dilbit are crucial to consider when responding to a spill, however few environmental studies on dilbit have been completed. Here we report on 11-day long experimental spills of dilbit (Cold Lake Winter Blend) in outdoor micro-cosms meant to simulate a low-energy aquatic system containing natural lake water and sedi-ments treated with a low (1:8,000 oil:water) and high (1:800 oil:water) volume of dilbit. In the first 24 hours of the experiment, volatile hydrocarbons quickly evaporated from the dilbit, result-ing in increased dilbit density and viscosity. These changes in dilbit’s physical and chemical properties ultimately led to its submergence after 8 days. We also detected rapid accumulation of polycyclic aromatic compounds in the water column of the treated-microcosms following the spills. Our study provides new information on the environmental fate and behaviour of dilbit in a freshwater environment that will be critical to environmental risk assessments of proposed pipe-line projects. In particular, our study demonstrates the propensity for dilbit to sink under ambient environmental conditions in fresh waters typical of many boreal lakes.