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Smoke Plume Trajectory From In Situ Burning of Crude Oil in Alaska: Field Experiments (NISTIR 5764)



Kevin B. McGrattan, William D. Walton, Anthony D. Putorti Jr., W H. Twilley, Jay A. McElroy, D D. Evans


As part of their effort to assess the impact of smoke plumes from in situ burning of crude oil on nearby populations, the Alaska Regional Response Team and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation established a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 1993 with the intent of developing predictive methods to estimate the downwind concentration of particulate matter from a burning oil spill. The first phase of the study consisted of laboratory-scale burns of North Slope and Cook Inlet crude oils, the results of which were used to define the source terms for the LES (Large Eddy Simulation) plume trajectory model. A number of different fire sizes and weather conditions were considered with the aim of estimating the extent to which concentrations of smoke particulate matter would exceed ambient air quality standards. Recommendations were made in a previously published report. In the present report, experimental data collected at two sets of mesoscale burns are compared with the results of the LES model run using the recorded meteorological and physical conditions. The two experiments are the Newfoundland Offshore Burn Experiment (NOBE), August 1993, and the Alaska Clean Seas Burning of Emulsions, September 1994. Each series of burns was conducted under different conditions, and different data collection techniques were employed at each. The results show that the predictions of the LES model are in good agreement with the experimental measurements, given the uncertainty of the input parameters. This increases confidence in the accuracy of the predicted results reported in the original study, and it also provides guidance on how to assess the undertainty of model predictions.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 5764
Report Number


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


McGrattan, K. , Walton, W. , Putorti, A. , Twilley, W. , McElroy, J. and Evans, D. (1995), Smoke Plume Trajectory From In Situ Burning of Crude Oil in Alaska: Field Experiments (NISTIR 5764), NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed April 15, 2024)
Created November 1, 1995, Updated November 10, 2018