Report

Tracking Hydrocarbon Plume Transport and Biodegradation at Deepwater Horizon

Science  08 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6001, pp. 201-204
DOI: 10.1126/science.1195223

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Abstract

The Deepwater Horizon blowout is the largest offshore oil spill in history. We present results from a subsurface hydrocarbon survey using an autonomous underwater vehicle and a ship-cabled sampler. Our findings indicate the presence of a continuous plume of oil, more than 35 kilometers in length, at approximately 1100 meters depth that persisted for months without substantial biodegradation. Samples collected from within the plume reveal monoaromatic petroleum hydrocarbon concentrations in excess of 50 micrograms per liter. These data indicate that monoaromatic input to this plume was at least 5500 kilograms per day, which is more than double the total source rate of all natural seeps of the monoaromatic petroleum hydrocarbons in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Dissolved oxygen concentrations suggest that microbial respiration rates within the plume were not appreciably more than 1 micromolar oxygen per day.

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