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After The Deepwater Horizon Disaster - the most well-studied oil spill

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded into fire in the northern Gulf of Mexico, approximately 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Two days later it sank. The incident killed 11 workers and set off the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. By the time the well was capped on July 15, 2010, approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil—about 6 × 1011 g—plus another 2 × 1011 g of hydrocarbon gases had gushed out of the undersea Macondo reservoir and into the Gulf.

According to government estimates, a mere 20% of that oil was recovered, either directly from the wellhead or by skimming the sea surface (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2012, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1214389109). Another 5% was burned, going up in the air, with some turning into particles that drifted to the seafloor. The vast majority of oil—75%—was neither burned nor recovered. It wound up in four places: dissolved in the water, evaporated to the air, stuck to the coastline, or settled on the seafloor.

As for the gas, what was recovered with oil was burned, whereas the rest predominately dissolved in the water column, forming the so-called deep plume.

In many ways, the spill turned out to be far less severe than feared. Federal waters reopened for fishing within a year, and coastal areas largely appear recovered.But scientists now say some effects on Gulf ecosystems are far from over: Slowly degrading oil remains in sediments, where it appears to be harming insects in shallow marsh water and may have long-term health consequences for fish and plants in deep water. Also, ecosystem effects of dramatic changes in microbial populations that responded to the hydrocarbon deluge remain a mystery. In addition, researchers have learned that atmospheric measurements can quickly quantify amounts and the origin of leaking gas and oil and that water delivers nutrients essential for microbes to break down balls of oil on beaches.

Three years after the spill, scientists continue to evaluate what they know—and don’t know—about the largest spill in U.S. history. From a basic science perspective, “it was a fascinating opportunity to see what happens when you perturb a large body of water with a large body of oil,” says Christopher M. Reddy, a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Furthermore, studying how different ecosystems fared in the spill can help identify areas that are particularly tolerant of or resilient to oil, so responders can better direct efforts next time.

For the full article use the link below......

Chemical and Engineering News