Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

At least 200,000 tons of oil and gas from Deepwater Horizon spill consumed by gulf bacteria
by Staff Writers
Rochester NY (SPX) Sep 14, 2012

File image.

Researchers from the University of Rochester and Texas A and M University have found that, over a period of five months following the disastrous 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, naturally-occurring bacteria that exist in the Gulf of Mexico consumed and removed at least 200,000 tons of oil and natural gas that spewed into the deep Gulf from the ruptured well head.

The researchers analyzed an extensive data set to determine not only how much oil and gas was eaten by bacteria, but also how the characteristics of this feast changed with time.

"A significant amount of the oil and gas that was released was retained within the ocean water more than one-half mile below the sea surface. It appears that the hydrocarbon-eating bacteria did a good job of removing the majority of the material that was retained in these layers," said co-author John Kessler of the University of Rochester.

The results published this week in Environmental Science and Technology include the first measurements of how the rate at which the bacteria ate the oil and gas changed as this disaster progressed, information that is fundamental to understanding both this spill and predicting the behavior of future spills.

Kessler noted: "Interestingly, the oil and gas consumption rate was correlated with the addition of dispersants at the wellhead. While there is still much to learn about the appropriateness of using dispersants in a natural ecosystem, our results suggest it made the released hydrocarbons more available to the native Gulf of Mexico microorganisms. "

Their measurements show that the consumption of the oil and gas by bacteria in the deep Gulf had stopped by September 2010, five months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

"It is unclear if this indicates that this great feast was over by this time or if the microorganisms were simply taking a break before they start on dessert and coffee" said Kessler.

"Our results suggest that some (about 40%) of the released hydrocarbons that once populated these layers still remained in the Gulf post September 2010, so food was available for the feast to continue at some later time. But the location of those substances and whether they were biochemically transformed is unknown."

Previous studies of the Deepwater Horizon spill had shown that the oil and gas were trapped in underwater layers, or "plumes", and that the bacteria had begun consuming the oil and gas. By using a more extensive data set, the researchers were able to measure just how many tons of hydrocarbons released from the spill had been removed in the deep Gulf waters.

The team's research suggests that the majority of what once composed these large underwater plumes of oil and gas was eaten by the bacteria.

Professor John Kessler, recently appointed as Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences of the University of Rochester, worked with graduate research assistant Mengran Du at Texas A and M University to analyze over 1300 profiles of oxygen dissolved in the Gulf of Mexico water spanning a period of four months and covering nearly 30,000 square miles.

The researchers calculated how many tons of oil and gas had been consumed and at what rate by first measuring how much oxygen had been removed from the ocean. Mengran Du explained that "when bacteria consume oil and gas, they use up oxygen and release carbon dioxide, just as humans do when we breathe.

When bacteria die and decompose, that uses up still more oxygen. Both these processes remove oxygen from the water." Du added that it is this lower oxygen level that the researchers could measure and use as an indicator of how much oil and gas had been removed by microorganisms and at what rate.

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation with additional contributions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Sloan Foundation, BP/the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, and the Chinese Scholarship Council.


Related Links
University of Rochester
Powering The World in the 21st Century at

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Iraq, Kurds reach preliminary oil deal: officials
Baghdad (AFP) Sept 13, 2012
The Iraqi government and Kurdistan struck a preliminary deal on Thursday on a months-long oil dispute that will see the autonomous region export 200,000 barrels of oil per day, officials said. Kurdistan halted its oil exports via the federal government on April 1 over $1.5 billion it said is owed to foreign oil companies working in the region that Baghdad has allegedly withheld, but then res ... read more

Remains of astronaut legend Neil Armstrong buried at sea

Memorial service honors 'man on the moon' Armstrong

Chandrayaan II may be delayed, says ISRO Chief

First man on moon to be buried at sea: Armstrong family

Aging Mars rover discovers geological mystery

Mars Rover Curiosity Arm Tests Nearly Complete

Mars Rover Spectrometer Finishes Calibration-Target Reading

Next Mars Mission Enters Final Phase Before Launch

Mankind's messenger at the final frontier

35 years on, Voyager 'dancing on edge' of outer space

Space-age food served up with seeds of success

Africa eyes joint space agency

Tiangong Orbit Change Signals Likely Date for Shenzhou 10

China Focus: Timeline for China's space research revealed

China eyes next lunar landing as US scales back

China unveils ambitious space projects

Luca Parmitano flying high

Astronauts Take Second Spacewalk

ISS crew complete space station repair

Crew Wraps Up Preparations for Wednesday's Spacewalk

ISRO's 100th space mission blasts off, PM witnesses historic event

SES signs three satellite launches with SpaceX

S. Korea to make third rocket launch bid in October

Arianespace concurrently manages six missions with Ariane 5 and Soyuz

Two 'hot Jupiters' found in star cluster: NASA

Planets Can Form in the Galactic Center

Birth of a planet

A Hot Potential Habitable Exoplanet around Gliese 163

Nano-velcro clasps heavy metal molecules in its grips

HYLAS 2 Communications Satellite Completes In-Orbit Testing

U.S. Air Force Chooses Northrop Grumman to Demonstrate Next-Generation Air Defense Radar System

iPhone 5 not just a phone; it's a stimulus too

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement