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article imageGallons of Deepwater Horizon oil remains on the sea floor

By Tim Sandle     Nov 2, 2014 in Environment
Several years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, excessive quantities of oil remains on the sea floor. The oil continues to cause environmental harm to marine life.
Oil that spewed out from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon site continues to pose an ecological risk. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on April 20, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect. The disaster is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.
New research suggests that around 16 percent of the approximately 5 million barrels of oil that burst into the Gulf of Mexico has settled into the seafloor. This is within a 40-kilometer radius of the damaged oil well. Thus the extent of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill may never be known, but it is far more damaging than previously thought.
Researchers are currently tracking the remaining oil in order to assess the full extent of the ecological damage. In a new study, Science News reports, run by David Valentine of the University of California, Santa Barbara, marine experts have located much of the submerged oil by searching for the chemical hopane. Hopane is a robust hydrocarbon and it serves to act as an indicator chemical for oil.
Oil on the ocean floor was detected through the analysis of around 3,000 ocean sediment samples. These samples were taken from 534 locations in the Gulf. This allowed the researchers to map out the remaining oil. These oil deposits were spread across a 3,200-square-kilometer region around the well.
The findings and a consideration of the ecological implications have been reported to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study is called “Fallout plume of submerged oil from Deepwater Horizon”.
In related ecological news, microbial activities in the Gulf of Mexico suggests that gas-rich deepwater plumes following the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout overwhelmed methane-oxidizing bacterial species, leading to high concentrations of methane lasting for a very long time.
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