Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bacteria Feasted on Deepwater Horizon Oil

“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.
 I expected results like this. Bacteria are very adaptable, and the addition of a big bolus of potential energy in the form of hydrocarbons is almost certain to stimulate the development of a microbial community capable of utilizing that source. It right not to completely dismiss the possibility of damage to the deep waters of the Gulf, but the damage is almost invariably far less than the shrillest voices in the media (the ones that get the most attention) would have us believe.
One interesting outcome:
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."
This is a factor to consider in future oil spills (yes, there will be future oil spills).  The use of dispersants is debated; some suggest that it makes the oil more toxic while making it less visible, but if they help the bacteria remove the oil over a shorter period, that adds to the science suggesting theyshould be considered.

Found at Watts Up With That.

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