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8. What Happens to Dispersed Oil?

Initially, dispersed oil moves down into the water column to depths ranging from 1 to 10 meters (about 3 to 30 feet). To avoid contaminating the sea floor, most dispersant use to date has been restricted to waters deeper than 10 meters (about 30 feet). This diagram shows concentrations of dispersed oil at different depths (estimated from field studies), during the first few hours after dispersants have been applied. These concentrations drop within hours as currents and waves disperse the oil further.

Graphic: A steep concentration gradient exists briefly in the top few meters of the water column.
Last updated Tuesday, May 29, 2012 11:07am PDT