Flocculation effect on turbidity flows generated by deep-sea mining: A numerical study

Mohamed Elerian*, Ziyang Huang, Cees van Rhee, Rudy Helmons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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We have developed and investigated a hydrodynamic model of Deep-Sea Mining (DSM) collector turbidity flows that captures sediment particle aggregation and breakup. Flocculation is expected to have a significant impact on determining the spread patterns of the turbidity flows and the resulting turbidity currents. The recently validated drift-flux model by Elerian et al. (2022) has been coupled to the Population Balance Equation (PBE) for modelling real-life discharge scenarios. This advanced approach accounts for the dynamics of flocculation and offers a comprehensive simulation of discharge systems. We hypothesize that this will produce a more accurate representation of DSM turbidity flows in the near-field region, where the turbulence mixing is expected to be the highest. Particular emphasis is placed on the settling velocity closure, as the flocs that form are porous and have a complex geometry. The flocculation parameters are calibrated using the experiments of Gillard et al. (2019). Finally, we investigate the effect of flocculation in the near-field region by numerically solving the new model in a computational domain of the near-field region. The results indicate that aggregation is the primary mechanism, however, it does not have a visible impact on the turbidity flow in the immediate vicinity, but it is likely to have a substantial effect on the far-field region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114250
Number of pages16
JournalOcean Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Deep sea mining
  • Flocculation effect
  • Flocculation modelling
  • Polymetallic nodules
  • Population balance equation


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