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Analysis of Smoke Samples From Oil Well Fires in Kuwait. Report of Test (FR 3985)



George W. Mulholland, Bruce A. Benner Jr, Robert A. Fletcher, Eric B. Steel, Stephen A. Wise, Willie E. May, Daniel M. Madrzykowski, David J. Evans


This report describes results from a preliminary series of measurements concerning the smoke production from the Kuwait oil well fires. Detailed chemical analysis of the smoke is being carried out for determination of the fraction of ambient aerosol arising from the Kuwait oil well fires on a local, regional, and global scale. The overall goal is to characterize the amount of smoke particulate produced and its chemical makeup, as well as the amount of various gaseous species including SOx and PAHs from individual well fires. This information will be used together with the burning rates of a large number of oil well fires to estimate the total production of smoke and gases from all the fires in Kuwait. The source term information is essential for risk assessment in regard to health effects, environmental/climate impact, and visibility. Smoke samples were collected in the Al Maqwa oil field in Kuwait on May 15, 1991 from two locations illustrated on the map. The first set was collected about 3 meters above ground at an "ambient" location; that is, the sampling was not from a plume but was from the oil field region. These samples are indicated as ambient oil field samples. The second set of samples, denoted as plume samples, was collected in the plume of a combination jet-pool fire at a height of about 1 meter. The ground level plume consisted of whitish smoke, while black smoke was emanating from the flames. It was the whitish smoke that we were sampling. The particulate was collected on quartz filters, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) filters, on stages of a cascade impactor, and on carbon coated transmission electron microscopy (TEM) grids. Volatile polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were collected downstream on XAD-2 sorbent and CO and CO2 were collected in PTFE sampling bags. The sampling procedures are described in more detail below. The smoke analysis included the determination of the mass of particulate on the filter, the relative amounts of organic and elemental carbon in the particulate, the PAH content of the particulate and gas, the chemical composition by laser microprobe mass spectroscopy (LMMS), and the particle size distribution by transmission electron microscopy and by cascade impactor. Gas chromatography was used to analyze the CO and CO2 concentration in the gas samples.
Report of Test FR 3985


well fires, crude oil, smoke


Mulholland, G. , Benner, B. , Fletcher, R. , Steel, E. , Wise, S. , May, W. , Madrzykowski, D. and Evans, D. (1991), Analysis of Smoke Samples From Oil Well Fires in Kuwait. Report of Test (FR 3985), Report of Test FR 3985, [online], (Accessed July 13, 2024)


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Created June 20, 1991, Updated February 19, 2017