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Evaluation of Oil Fluorescence Characteristics to Improve Forensic Response Tools

Project Number
Progress Date
Project Initiation Date
Performing Activity
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Center for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research Fisheries and Oceans Canada (COOGER, DFO)
Principal Investigator
Dr. Robyn Conmy
Contract Award Value
Estimated Completion Date


The objective of this project was to translate oil fluorescence Research & Development into operational tools for spill response highlighted by three specific goals below:

  • Generate a comprehensive Excitation Emission Matrix Spectroscopy (EEMS) database, building upon existing data at DFO to provide fluorescence peak information as a function of oil type, weathering state, concentration and Dispersant-to- Oil Ratios (DORs).
  • Examine the database using advanced statistical methods and models to identify wavelengths best suited for oil monitoring during dispersant application and degradation.
  • Conduct wave tank experiments to determine submersible sensors capable of providing data comparable to scanning and/or fixed wavelength laboratory fluorometers for rapid deployment during response efforts.

The goals were accomplished with the following phases:

Phase 1: A review of existing EEMS was conducted and a comprehensive EEMs library database was generated.

Phase 2: Results of Phase 1 were subjected to advanced statistical analyses and models to identify wavelengths best suited for oil monitoring during dispersant application and biodegradation and were correlated to traditional visual peak (peak picking) selection methods and used to evaluate the Fluorescence Intensity Ratio (FIR) technique.

Phase 3: The final phase addressed the disconnect that exists between fluorescence research conducted in laboratories and the collection of fluorescence data from submersible sensors.

Latest progress update

This project has been completed.

Some key findings from this work include:

  • In-situ fluorescence serves as a good proxy for oil concentration during the subsurface injection experiments. Given the experimental design, fluorescence is better suited for correlation with particle size analysis and concentration.
  • Fluorescence Excitation Emission Matrices (EEMs) were generated for 25 oil types under varying DOR. Fluorescence peaks are chemistry dependent and were well correlated with Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) and Benzene‐Toluene‐Ethylbenzene‐Xylene (BTEX) concentrations. EEMs generated from tank and Baffle Flask Test (BFT) experiments were in agreement with respect to fluorescence peak position and Fluorescence Intensity Ratio (FIR) values as an indication of dispersion effectiveness.
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