Prabhakar T. Clement of Auburn University was awarded $146,211 by the National Science Foundation on August 3, 2010, to develope a pyrolysis GC/MS facility for characterizing oil-contaminated water, sediment and seafood samples from the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Ah Jeong Son, Clifford Lange, and Dongye (Don) Zhao will also participate in the project.
Abstract at Time of Award:
This MRI RAPID grant will allow for the development of a laboratory facility that can employ pyrolysis coupled with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS) to characterize oil, water, sediment, and oil-contaminated seafood samples from the Alabama coastline that is heavily contaminated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has discharged an enormous amount of oil into highly sensitive Gulf waters. This has resulted in severe contamination of Alabama’s and other Gulf coast beaches, wetlands, and bays. The long-term impacts of this catastrophic event are simply unknown. This MRI investment is timely and urgent in light of the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The Environmental Engineering faculty at Auburn University is committed to conducting peer-reviewed research to address various environmental assessment and remediation problems related to this event. Specifically, this MRI RAPID award will enable the following six research topics that are directly related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill event: 1) developing an ecological baseline database for the Gulf region; 2) understanding the fate and transport of dispersant-mixed crude oil using wave-tank experiments; 3) understanding the influence of dispersants on the kinetics of the crude oil dissolution process; 4) quantifying the influence of dispersants on oil biodegradation kinetics; 5) assessing the impacts of dispersants and dispersant-mixed crude on marine microfauna; and 6) development of seafood safety test methods. Clement has initiated preliminary oil characterization and biodegradation studies in their laboratory. These research efforts require a GC/MS facility to characterize the crude oil and its components.
The data generated using this instrument will help Clement to better understand the impacts of the oil spill and will also help devise innovative methods to mitigate the impacts. Understanding the fate and transport of crude oil components and its impact on water quality, sediments, seafood and the overall coastal ecosystem is critical to understanding the overall long-term impacts of the oil spill on the Gulf Coast economy. Clement is currently working with a diverse team consisting of sociologists, marine biologists and ecologists to explore various long-term socio-economic issues related to the spill.