Yuka Yoneda

Scientists Say Hungry Microbes Ate Giant BP Gulf Oil Plume

by , 08/25/10
filed under: Water Issues

bp oil spill, deepwater horizon oil spill, gulf of mexico, gulf oil plume, Gulf oil spill, oil plume, oil spill, plume, woods hole oceanographic institute, Terry Hazen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, science, scientists, microbes, bacteria, microbes ate oil plume, oil eating microbesMicrobes “eating” oil. Source: Reuters/Yahoo!Green

Recently, we reported on evidence of a precarious Manhattan-sized oil plume resulting from the BP spill, but new findings show that the plume has been almost entirely consumed by hungry microbes! Say what??? With all of this back and forth – the oil plume is still there, the oil plume is gone – we’re still a bit skeptical. But if what the scientists have found is true, we need to pay homage to the fast-eating micro-organisms that helped us out simply by dining on one of their favorite comfort foods – oil.

bp oil spill, deepwater horizon oil spill, gulf of mexico, gulf oil plume, Gulf oil spill, oil plume, oil spill, plume, woods hole oceanographic institute, Terry Hazen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, science, scientists, microbes, bacteria, microbes ate oil plume, oil eating microbes

The microbes responsible for the disappearance of the plume are able to biodegrade hydrocarbons much more efficiently than previously thought without significantly depleting oxygen like other known oil-eating bacteria do. One of the scientists who worked on the study, Terry Hazen of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said that the proteobacteria (a.k.a “bugs”) appeared to have been stimulated by the massive oil spill, boosting their ability to degrade oil in cold water and allowing them to chomp their way through the hydrocarbons so quickly that the plume is now undetectable.

So if the bugs were busy feasting on the plume and breaking it down, why did other findings show that it was still there this whole time? Well the team that reported on the size and scope of the plume were forced to leave the area in late June because of Hurricane Alex and at that time, they estimated that the plume was likely to remain for some time. Then the well was capped in mid-July, and according to Hazen, within two weeks of the capping, the plume could no longer be detected. And to support the theory, a phenomenon called “marine snow” indicating microbes had been eating hydrocarbons.

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6 Comments

  1. BP Continues to Pollute... September 7, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    [...] may — or may not — be some scientific disagreement about how much spilled oil remains in [...]

  2. BP Continues to Pollute... September 7, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    [...] may — or may not — be some scientific disagreement about how much spilled oil remains in [...]

  3. BREAKING: Another Oil R... September 2, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    [...] when you thought things were getting better in the Gulf of Mexico, another oil rig has just exploded. This morning around 9:30 am CDT a commercial helicopter [...]

  4. chrismerwin August 25, 2010 at 10:10 am

    It would be nice to think we could all rest a little easier, however, this situation should have never happened and its almost criminally negligent that it took this long to handle.

  5. Brit Liggett August 25, 2010 at 10:08 am

    I am skeptical too. That oil plume was huge! But if it is true, what a feat!

  6. Bridgette August 25, 2010 at 9:52 am

    I’m super skeptical, but if it’s true, we need to do some research on these little bugs!

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