Along with the death of scores of marine animals and seabirds, one of the main concerns during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the impact on the food chain. A new study clarifies that impact: Hydrocarbons from the Macondo well trickled into the ocean food chain via its tiniest members, zooplankton.
A newly designed metallic soap reacts to a magnetic field, a first in soap research that could lead to better control of cleanup chemicals in situations like aquatic oil spills. A magnet can overcome both gravity and the surface tension between water and oil to draw the soap away, ensuring it can be recovered after it’s used.
Rainbow-tinted slicks and globules of oil have been cropping up in the Gulf of Mexico during the past 10 days or so, and it’s not clear where it is all coming from. BP, whose Macondo well spewed 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf last summer after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, has denied that the oil is coming from that well. But some scientists say it’s certainly possible.
Towering flames illuminated the pre-dawn darkness, casting shadows on the ship Ocean Intervention III as it floated over the sunken remains of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The resonant hum of helicopters fused with the roar of fires on either side of the ship, and Chris Reddy could feel the heat on his face.
The night of June 21, 2010, Reddy and colleagues from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution were whisked off their research vessel Endeavor to collect samples directly from the blown Macondo well, which had been spewing oil and natural gas into the Gulf of Mexico for two months. They had 12 hours to do something that had never been done before: Use a robot arm to stick a special bottle directly into the hot hydrocarbons. Now, a year later, their analysis explains just what came out of the well, and sheds more light on what happened to it.
“One beaten man is worth two unbeaten men.” This is not the reasoning Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave to explain why Russia is green-lighting a dicey project to drill for undersea oil in the forbidding Arctic Ocean. It’s the justification he gave for Russia’s choice of partner in the projects: BP.
Following the greatest environmental catastrophe in recent history, the lowest life forms among us have been the biggest heroes. Once again, scientists have found that bacteria ate up the remnants of the the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Within four months of the oil spill, bacterial blooms had removed more than 200,000 metric tons of dissolved methane, returning concentrations to normal background levels.
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar have officially declared that the cement cap permanently plugging BP's Macondo well is successfully in place, ending a five-month effort that nonetheless saw nearly 4.9 million barrels of oil escape into the Gulf of Mexico. "With the successful first intercept by the relief well and our confirmation through pressure tests that the cement plugs are secure, we can now declare BP's Macondo well effectively dead," the secretaries said in a joint statement. Finally.
Researchers on board a ship in the Gulf of Mexico have found a layer of oil at least two inches thick, nestled in the depths a mile below the surface, that they believe came from the blown-out BP well.
Samantha Joye, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, set sail August 21 on the research vessel Oceanus and has been posting blog updates throughout the mission. Over the weekend, she wrote that her team found a layer of oil in a valley on the seafloor, about 18 miles from the wellhead. It is two inches thick in some spots, and it rests on top of recently dead sea creatures like shrimp and tubeworms.
Remember how we told you last week about the problem of variables when studying the Gulf oil spill? Here's another one: according to a new study, a heretofore unseen species of bacteria is eating the oil, and eating it efficiently. Thanks to these cold-loving, oil-munching bugs, the huge oil plume we learned about last week is probably gone, according to Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and principal investigator at the Energy Biosciences Institute.
"In the last three weeks, we haven't been able to detect the deepwater plume anywhere we've gone," he said in an interview. "It appears to have been completely biodegraded and diluted out. Like the surface (oil), we can no longer find it."
Oceanographers announced today the discovery of a wispy oil plume at least 22 miles long and 1.2 miles wide floating beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, a sign that plenty of the oil from BP's Deepwater Horizon leak remains in the environment. It's the first conclusive proof that a deep-sea plume from the leak exists, which at least partially explains what happened to the oil in the three months since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. It also casts doubt on the federal government's statement earlier this month that most of the oil has dispersed or disappeared.
But the new study is merely a rough snapshot of what is happening in the depths. Wide disagreement persists among scientists who study the Gulf and oil spills, and they say it could take generations to fully understand the leak's scope. The best minds in marine science and geology can't say yet how bad it will be.