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Public Lab Research note

Team Orca resurrected --Gulf Monitoring Consortium test for BP tar

by eustatic | June 25, 2014 19:52 25 Jun 19:52 | #10617 | #10617


Reflections on the Alpha Oil Testing Kit

[to be continued]

Team Orca has rolled over. Eustis, Henderson, Jen (adios), Kearney (out of pocket).

GMC has a need for field testing for oil.
1) is this Oil? the smell test is great, but the media wants visuals.

2) Is this BP's Oil? This will require some fingerprinting and spectralworkbench. This is a very tough question and the pros like Ed Overton at LSU, are having some trouble doing this as time passes. Can we make things work in field conditions?

[this is part one, non spectrometer results, appropriate for field]
[link older notes here, with the Orca tag] http://publiclab.org/notes/eustatic/08-01-2013/making-grand-isle-coffee

What was tested

<5mW vs <1000,W UV laser
--no difference to "eyeball" , both same freq

Control Mineral Oil and Coal Dust in Mineral Oil
So here we show the mineral oil, mineral oil with coal dust (shows the laser with minimal fluoresce) and Grand Isle Coffee 100x (laser stopped before olive oil)

Olive Oil

Brake Fluid

BP tar ball 100x, Grand Isle, 2013 (grand isle coffee) in mineral oil

West Bay, TX after the Kirby Y spill

Bay Batiste water (no mineral oil except at top of vial)

purple shows color of laser

Bay Batiste Soil

[When, where, what]
Now we know that unknown oil isn't veggie oil, and is more likely crude. but BP crude? Corexit?

Things that went well

like the rubber pipetters

mineral oil container less spilly and gross than commerical mineral oil ("top best" or some such)

nice small cuvettes for samples, but we defaulted to 30ml Barnes droppers for cuvettes

Challenges encountered

need oily proof labels, like painters tape, avery labels would not stick.

tyvek tape sticks!

Suggestions to improve the tool


field photos https://www.flickr.com/photos/healthygulf/sets/72157644830850030

lab photos https://www.flickr.com/photos/eustatic/14506149522/

main image much larger https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5233/14324445688_189d7e59a6_h.jpg


Wow, great work. For Grand Isle Coffee 10x (the one where the laser doesn't go all the way through), it looks like you could dilute it further. Or if you re-prepared it, you might be able to add less sample to the mineral oil. Even the olive oil looks too concentrated -- could you add just a small amount of olive oil to a mineral oil jar, until it was the same opacity roughly as the brake fluid? Was the brake fluid added to mineral oil?

This seems like a very important step -- getting the right concentration. Could we ship a color comparison strip or something to help people easily get it to a certain shade of "darkness"?

Re: coal dust, I wonder if heat or pressure or a more aggressive solvent (like methanol) would help dissolve it. It may not be worth the extra challenge (we could focus on things like tarballs that are easier) but I'm thinking like a tiny "tar sands" double boiler or literally wrapping the coal dust in a coffee filter or tea bag and heating or frying it in a thick layer of oil. Or like a pressure cooker. Let's not get too nuts here though, i guess.

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Also why does the laser show more in the coal dust vial? Are you sure it isn't fluorescing? Could you take a clearer photo?

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Awesome Scott! Thanks for posting. What about what we found with the Spec? I could post a follow up note on some of the issues we ran into there, or should we include it here?

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