Title

Large-Scale Deposition of Weathered Oil in the Gulf of Mexico Following a Deep-Water Oil Spill

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

9-1-2017

Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Abstract

The blowout of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) drilling rig in 2010 released an unprecedented amount of oil at depth (1,500 m) into the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). Sedimentary geochemical data from an extensive area (∼194,000 km2) was used to characterize the amount, chemical signature, distribution, and extent of the DWH oil deposited on the seafloor in 2010–2011 from coastal to deep-sea areas in the GoM. The analysis of numerous hydrocarbon compounds (N = 158) and sediment cores (N = 2,613) suggests that, 1.9 ± 0.9 × 104 metric tons of hydrocarbons (>C9 saturated and aromatic fractions) were deposited in 56% of the studied area, containing 21± 10% (up to 47%) of the total amount of oil discharged and not recovered from the DWH spill. Examination of the spatial trends and chemical diagnostic ratios indicate large deposition of weathered DWH oil in coastal and deep-sea areas and negligible deposition on the continental shelf (behaving as a transition zone in the northern GoM). The large-scale analysis of deposited hydrocarbons following the DWH spill helps understanding the possible long-term fate of the released oil in 2010, including sedimentary transformation processes, redistribution of deposited hydrocarbons, and persistence in the environment as recycled petrocarbon.

Publication Title

Environmental Pollution

Volume

228

First Page

179

Last Page

189

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