Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Detailed picture of Rena oil emerging

October 22, 2011

Detailed picture of Rena oil emerging thanks to University of Waikato scientists

Scientists at the University of Waikato have made good progress in understanding the chemical composition of the fuel oil aboard the stricken container ship Rena.

Professor Alistair Wilkins from the university’s chemistry department has examined oil from the ship’s tanks, from surface slicks and from ‘tar balls’ found on the Mt Maunganui beach.

“Oil from the Rena grounding contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds (PAHs), which are known to be harmful to humans and wildlife,” says Professor Wilkins. The levels of these compounds will likely determine when it is safe to eat shellfish and other marine species again.

“These hydrocarbon compounds are the same as those found in fuel oils from around the world but we have yet to determine how much of each compound is present in the Rena oil.”

All of the samples collected contain similar substances to those found in diesel fuel bought from the pump but the proportions of different sized compounds in the mixture is different with Rena oil containing a greater proportion of larger compounds than diesel fuel. It is these large compounds that cause the fuel oil to have the consistency of Vegemite at room temperature.

When the oil from the ship enters the water, the smaller, lighter compounds begin to evaporate rather like paint drying and the end result is a tarry solid such as we have seen deposited on the beach.

Once on the beach, weathering and bacterial action will slowly degrade these deposits but it’s not easy to predict how long this will take. Compounds have also been seen in the oil which may make it possible to distinguish Rena oil from local sources of oil using hydrocarbon ‘fingerprinting’ techniques.

University of Waikato scientists will continue detailed analysis of the oil and it is expected that this information will assist researchers that are already studying the effects of the spill on the coastal environment.

The University of Waikato has been heavily involved since the Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef earlier this month. The Chair in Coastal Science Professor Chris Battershill, other University of Waikato scientists, PhD students, and student volunteers have all been involved from the outset.

Caption for graph:
Graph shows the profile of compounds present in an oil slick sample collected 1.5 km south of the Rena. Straight chain hydrocarbon peaks are labelled. Other hydrocarbons and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), including naphthalene and methyl naphthalenes (*) are interspersed between the labelled peaks.

© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


TradeMe: Property Prices In Every Region Hit New High For The Very First Time

Property prices experienced their hottest month on record in December, with record highs in every region, according to the latest Trade Me Property Price Index.\ Trade Me Property spokesperson Logan Mudge said the property market ended the year with ... More>>

Motor Industry Association: 2020 New Vehicle Registrations Suffer From Covid-19

Chief Executive David Crawford says that like some other sectors of the New Zealand economy, the new vehicle sector suffered from a case of Covid-19. Confirmed figures for December 2020 show registrations of 8,383 were 25% ... More>>

CTU 2021 Work Life Survey: COVID And Bullying Hit Workplaces Hard, Huge Support For Increased Sick Leave

New data from the CTU’s annual work life survey shows a snapshot of working people’s experiences and outlook heading out of 2020 and into the new year. Concerningly 42% of respondents cite workplace bullying as an issue in their workplace - a number ... More>>

Smelter: Tiwai Deal Gives Time For Managed Transition

Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed to working on a managed transition with the local community,” Grant Robertson said. More>>


OECD: Area Employment Rate Rose By 1.9 Percentage Points In The Third Quarter Of 2020

OECD area employment rate rose by 1.9 percentage points in the third quarter of 2020, but remained 2.5 percentage points below its pre-pandemic level The OECD area [1] employment rate – the share of the working-age population with jobs – rose ... More>>

Economy: Strong Job Ad Performance In Quarter Four

SEEK Quarterly Employment Report data shows a positive q/q performance with a 19% national growth in jobs advertised during Q4 2020, which includes October, November and December. Comparing quarter 4, 2020, with the same quarter in 2019 shows that job ad volumes are 7% lower...More>>

NIWA: 2020 - NZ’s 7th-warmest Year On Record

The nationwide average temperature for 2020, calculated using stations in NIWA’s seven-station temperature series which began in 1909, was 13.24°C (0.63°C above the 1981–2010 annual average). New Zealand’s hottest year on record remains 2016, when... More>>

Quotable Value New Zealand: Property Market Set To Cool From Sizzling To Warm In 2021

Nostradamus himself could not have predicted the strange series of events that befell our world in 2020 – nor the wild trajectory of New Zealand’s property market, which has gone from “doom and gloom” to “boom and Zoom” in record time. Even ... More>>