Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists identify Deepwater Horizon Oil on shore even years later, after most has degraded

13.06.2014

Developed unique way to fingerprint oil and assess how it changes over time

Years after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, oil continues to wash ashore as oil-soaked "sand patties," persists in salt marshes abutting the Gulf of Mexico, and questions remain about how much oil has been deposited on the seafloor.


Researchers used comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography (GCxGC) in their oil spill forensics to measure levels of degradation in biomarkers. THe biomarkers here are shown inside the dotted line.

Credit: Christoph Aeppli, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences


Years after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, oil continues to wash ashore as oil-soaked "sand patties."

Credit: Catherine Carmichael, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences have developed a unique way to fingerprint oil, even after most of it has degraded, and to assess how it changes over time. Researchers refined methods typically used to identify the source of oil spills and adapted them for application on a longer time frame to successfully identify Macondo Well oil, years after the spill.

"We were looking at two questions: how could we identify the oil on shore, now four years after the spill, and how the oil from the spill was weathering over time," explained Christoph Aeppli, Senior Research Scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine, and lead author of the study reported in Environmental Science & Technology. Aeppli worked with his then-colleagues at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and University of California, Santa Barbara on the investigation and report.

Researchers used comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography (GCxGC) in their oil spill forensics to measure levels of degradation in biomarkers. Biomarkers are molecular fossils. Each reservoir has specific amounts of different biomarkers, so oil biomarkers serve as identifiers much like human fingerprints.

Biomarkers are usually recalcitrant in reservoirs, but when exposed for a long time to the environment, some are altered due to natural processes. Oil consists of tens of thousands of compounds, and many of them can be degraded by bacteria or broken down by sunlight. This research was designed to determine the resiliency of specific biomarkers and to see how they held up when exposed to environmental conditions on shore.

"We found that some biomarkers—homohopanes and triaromoatic steroids (TAS), specifically – degraded within a few years following the Deepwater Horizon spill," said Chris Reddy, a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and co-author of the paper. "These biomarkers are not as resilient as once thought and they may provide a future window into determining how much, and how quickly, these oil components may linger in the environment when exposed to air, sunlight, and the elements."

Researchers sought to determine the specific source of the biomarkers degradation. Through analysis of oil-soaked "sand patties" collected along the Gulf shore over a 28-month period, they found that most biomarker compounds were recalcitrant and could be used to identify DWH oil. Some biomarkers, however, degraded. "This knowledge is helping us improve our oil spill forensics. It is providing a foundation for better, longer-term identification techniques that account for exposure of oil to wind, waves, sunlight, and microbial degradation over long times," added Aeppli.

Aeppli, Reddy and colleague Dave Valentine from UC Santa Barbara will apply this new oil fingerprinting technique to process tens of thousands of samples collected shortly after the DWH spill.

###

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit http://www.whoi.edu.

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. Recognized as a leader in Maine's emerging innovation economy, the Laboratory's research, education, and technology transfer programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.

Darlene Crist | Eurek Alert!

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Marine vessel tracking system also a lifesaver for wildlife
12.02.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society

nachricht Stability in ecosystems: Asynchrony of species is more important than diversity
12.02.2016 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Production of an AIDS vaccine in algae

Today, plants and microorganisms are heavily used for the production of medicinal products. The production of biopharmaceuticals in plants, also referred to as “Molecular Pharming”, represents a continuously growing field of plant biotechnology. Preferred host organisms include yeast and crop plants, such as maize and potato – plants with high demands. With the help of a special algal strain, the research team of Prof. Ralph Bock at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam strives to develop a more efficient and resource-saving system for the production of medicines and vaccines. They tested its practicality by synthesizing a component of a potential AIDS vaccine.

The use of plants and microorganisms to produce pharmaceuticals is nothing new. In 1982, bacteria were genetically modified to produce human insulin, a drug...

Im Focus: The most accurate optical single-ion clock worldwide

Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock which attains an accuracy which had only been predicted theoretically so far. Their optical ytterbium clock achieved a relative systematic measurement uncertainty of 3 E-18. The results have been published in the current issue of the scientific journal "Physical Review Letters".

Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock...

Im Focus: Goodbye ground control: autonomous nanosatellites

The University of Würzburg has two new space projects in the pipeline which are concerned with the observation of planets and autonomous fault correction aboard satellites. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy funds the projects with around 1.6 million euros.

Detecting tornadoes that sweep across Mars. Discovering meteors that fall to Earth. Investigating strange lightning that flashes from Earth's atmosphere into...

Im Focus: Flow phenomena on solid surfaces: Physicists highlight key role played by boundary layer velocity

Physicists from Saarland University and the ESPCI in Paris have shown how liquids on solid surfaces can be made to slide over the surface a bit like a bobsleigh on ice. The key is to apply a coating at the boundary between the liquid and the surface that induces the liquid to slip. This results in an increase in the average flow velocity of the liquid and its throughput. This was demonstrated by studying the behaviour of droplets on surfaces with different coatings as they evolved into the equilibrium state. The results could prove useful in optimizing industrial processes, such as the extrusion of plastics.

The study has been published in the respected academic journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).

Im Focus: New study: How stable is the West Antarctic Ice Sheet?

Exceeding critical temperature limits in the Southern Ocean may cause the collapse of ice sheets and a sharp rise in sea levels

A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation in Africa 2016

12.02.2016 | Event News

Travel grants available: Meet the world’s most proficient mathematicians and computer scientists

09.02.2016 | Event News

AKL’16: Experience Laser Technology Live in Europe´s Largest Laser Application Center!

02.02.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

LIGO confirms RIT's breakthrough prediction of gravitational waves

12.02.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Gene switch may repair DNA and prevent cancer

12.02.2016 | Life Sciences

Using 'Pacemakers' in spinal cord injuries

12.02.2016 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>