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Modeling the Fate/Transport of Refined Oil Product and Assessment of Their Biological Effects


The proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline project is anticipated to increase tanker traffic and correspondingly the risk of oil spills in Vancouver Harbour and the Salish Sea—an intricate network of coastal waterways encompassing the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound off southwestern British Columbia and northwestern Washington State. To address this possibility, this project will develop two computer models to simulate spills of refined oil products in the area and, ultimately, to predict the fate and behaviour of oil in this coastal environment.

The first model will be designed to support decision-making related to oil spill response. This three-dimensional, particle-based model simulates the evolution of oil on the water surface and along shorelines, and dispersed and dissolved concentrations in the water column. It incorporates various behavioural characteristics of oil including spreading, drifting, natural and chemical dispersion, evaporation, stranding, dissolution, adsorption, settling, emulsification, and biodegradation. The second oil spill model will be used to compare the simulated trajectories and fate (distribution) of refined oil products. Risk assessment modelling will also be carried out to assess the potential ecosystem risks and biological impacts on marine organisms for selected oil spill scenarios. This evaluation will be based on existing oil toxicity data combined with simulated concentrations of hydrocarbons from the spill model. The project will also produce risk maps to help identify the marine areas that are most vulnerable to spills of refined oil products, and which areas should be considered as high priority for spill response decisions.

Program Name

National Contaminants Advisory Group (NCAG)


2017 - 2018


Pacific Coast: Strait of Georgia,Southern Shelf

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Haibo Niu
Associate Professor, Department of Engineering
Dalhousie University

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