High-pressure visual experimental studies of oil-in-water dispersion droplet size

Zachary M. Aman, Claire B. Paris, Eric F. May, Michael L. Johns, David Lindo-Atichati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The formation of oil-in-water dispersions is a critical step during the blowout of coastal and deepwater oil and gas production systems, and is a determining factor in the vertical and lateral migration of oil through the associated adjacent water column. In this study a high-pressure sapphire visual autoclave apparatus was used to measure the size of crude oil droplets that were saturated with gas and dispersed in an aqueous phase as a function of mixing speed. Oil-in-water droplet size distributions were measured at pressures of 11MPa, for autoclave stirring rates of 200-1000RPM (1076≤Restirred vessel≤5378). Arithmetic mean droplet diameters decreased monotonically from 344 to 125μm over this range, with maximum droplet sizes decreasing from 708 to 441μm. A model tuned to the measured oil-in-water data was used to predict a mean droplet size on the order of 80μm for Deepwater Horizon conditions; when incorporated into far field blowout simulations, this droplet size data enables quantitative assessment of the impact of dispersant injection at the blowout site.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)392-400
Number of pages9
JournalChemical Engineering Science
StatePublished - May 4 2015


  • Deepwater blowout
  • Droplet size
  • Mixing
  • Multiphase flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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