The influence of drill cuttings on physical characteristics of phytodetritus.Mar Pollut Bull. 2011 Oct; 62(10):2170-80.MP
Sinking of aggregated phytoplankton cells is a crucial mechanism for transporting carbon to the seafloor and benthic ecosystem, with such aggregates often scavenging particulate material from the water column as they sink. In the vicinity of drilling rigs used by the oil and gas industry, the concentration of particulate matter in the water column may at times be enriched as a result of the discharge of 'drill cuttings' - drilling waste material. This investigation exposed laboratory produced phytoplankton aggregates to drill cuttings of various composition (those containing no hydrocarbons from reservoir rocks and those with a <1% hydrocarbon content) and assessed the change in aggregate size, settling rate and resuspension behavior of these using resuspension chambers and settling cylinders. Results indicate that both settling velocity and seabed stress required to resuspend the aggregates are greater in aggregates exposed to drill cuttings, with these increases most significant in aggregates exposed to hydrocarbon containing drill cuttings.