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Environ Sci Technol. 2014;48(3):1803-10. doi: 10.1021/es404206y. Epub 2014 Jan 14.

Submersible optical sensors exposed to chemically dispersed crude oil: wave tank simulations for improved oil spill monitoring.

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National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 26 West Martin Luther King BoulevardCincinnati, Ohio 45268, United States.


In situ fluorometers were deployed during the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Gulf of Mexico oil spill to track the subsea oil plume. Uncertainties regarding instrument specifications and capabilities necessitated performance testing of sensors exposed to simulated, dispersed oil plumes. Dynamic ranges of the Chelsea Technologies Group AQUAtracka, Turner Designs Cyclops, Satlantic SUNA and WET Labs, Inc. ECO, exposed to fresh and artificially weathered crude oil, were determined. Sensors were standardized against known oil volumes and total petroleum hydrocarbons and benzene-toluene-ethylbenzene-xylene measurements-both collected during spills, providing oil estimates during wave tank dilution experiments. All sensors estimated oil concentrations down to 300 ppb oil, refuting previous reports. Sensor performance results assist interpretation of DWH oil spill data and formulating future protocols.

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