Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Smoke Plume Trajectory From In Situ Burning of Crude Oil in Alaska: Field Experiments and Modeling of Complex Terrain (NISTIR 5958)



Kevin B. McGrattan, Howard R. Baum, William D. Walton, J. J. Trelles


A combination of numerical modeling and large scale experimentation has yielded a tremendous amount of information about the structure, trajectory and composition of smoke plumes from large crude oil fires. The model, ALOFT (A Large Outdoor Fire plume Trajectory), is based on the fundamental conservation equations that govern the introduction of hot gases and particulate matter from a large fire into the atmosphere. Two forms of the Navier-Stokes equations are solved numerically - one to describe the plume rise in the first kilometer, the other to describe the plume transport over tens of kilometers of complex terrain. Each form of the governing equations resolves the flow field at different length scales. Particulate matter, or any non-reacting combustion product, is represented by Lagrangian paticles that are advected by the fire-induced flow field. Background atmospheric motion is described in terms of the angular fluctuation of the prevailing wind, and represented by random perturbations to the mean particle paths. Results of the model are compared with three sets of field experiments. Estimates are made of distances from the fire where ground level concentrations of the combustion products fall below regulatory threshold levels.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 5958
Report Number


crude oil, oil spills, in situ combustion, pool fires, smoke, fire plumes, smoke movement, in situ burning


McGrattan, K. , Baum, H. , Walton, W. and Trelles, J. (1997), Smoke Plume Trajectory From In Situ Burning of Crude Oil in Alaska: Field Experiments and Modeling of Complex Terrain (NISTIR 5958), NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed April 15, 2024)
Created January 1, 1997, Updated June 2, 2021