New study found 75,000 times normal amount of hydrocarbon gases which “could have a long-lasting impact on oceanic oxygen levels”

Study finds massive flux of gas, in addition to liquid oil, at BP well blowout in Gulf, PhysOrg, February 13, 2011:

A new University of Georgia study that is the first to examine comprehensively the magnitude of hydrocarbon gases released during the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil discharge has found that up to 500,000 tons [1 billion pounds] of gaseous hydrocarbons were emitted into the deep ocean. …

[Ira Leifer of the University of California-Santa Barbara] added that some of the larger gaseous hydrocarbons documented, such as pentane, have significant health implications for humans and potentially for marine life.

[UGA Professor of Marine Sciences Samantha Joye] cautioned against assuming that microbes will rapidly consume the gases released from the well. Undoubtedly, the methane is a feast for them, Joye said, but she also noted that the microbes need nutrients, such as nitrogen, copper and iron. These nutrients are in scarce supply in the Gulf’s deep waters, Joye said, and once they are depleted the microbes will cease to grow—regardless of how much methane is available.

Magnitude and oxidation potential of hydrocarbon gases released from the BP oil well blowout, Nature Geoscience, February 13, 2011:

Gaseous hydrocarbons turn over slowly in the deep ocean, and microbial consumption of these gases could have a long-lasting impact on oceanic oxygen levels. …

Analysis of water around the wellhead revealed discrete layers of dissolved hydrocarbon gases between 1,000 and 1,300 m depth; concentrations exceeded background levels by up to 75,000 times.

We suggest that microbial consumption of these gases could lead to the extensive and persistent depletion of oxygen in hydrocarbon-enriched waters.

Brown oil globules at 1,125 meters

Supplementary information here.

3 comments to New study found 75,000 times normal amount of hydrocarbon gases which “could have a long-lasting impact on oceanic oxygen levels”

  • soozla

    Finally a serious discussion about hydrocarbon gases.The wells in the GOM have a large proportion of gas.
    Methane eating microbes need other nutrients to survive–most in scarce supply deep sea…so it seems rather evident that microbes could not eat all the oil before entering the loop current.
    I only hope that UGA will return and test as close to the well site as possible.
    These results are from early summer and done with the concept the well is fixed and there is no problem with the condition of the seafloor.
    I hope the investigative nature of science will listen to those with these concerns and continue to test.

  • soozla

    And frankly–science will completely miss the mark if it doesn’t return and test….

  • Coastal Warriors

    Important points on Pentane:

    Boiling point on Pentane: 9-36 degrees Celsius (48.2-96.8 degrees Fahrenheit)

    And here are the toxic effects – combine these with Corexit:

    # R1 Explosive when dry.
    # R2 Risk of explosion by shock, friction, fire or other source of ignition.
    # R3 Extreme risk of explosion by shock, friction, fire or other sources of ignition.
    # R4 Forms very sensitive explosive metallic compounds.
    # R5 Heating may cause an explosion.
    # R6 Explosive with or without contact with air.
    # R7 May cause fire.
    # R8 Contact with combustible material may cause fire.
    # R9 Explosive when mixed with combustible material.
    # R10 Flammable.
    # R11 Highly flammable.
    # R12 Extremely flammable.
    # R13 Extremely flammable liquefied gas
    # R14 Reacts violently with water.
    # R15 Contact with water liberates extremely flammable gases.
    # R16 Explosive when mixed with oxidizing substances.
    # R17 Spontaneously flammable in air.
    # R18 In use, may form inflammable/explosive vapour-air mixture.
    # R19 May form explosive peroxides.
    # R20 Harmful by inhalation.
    # R21 Harmful in contact with skin.
    # R22 Harmful if swallowed.
    # R23 Toxic by inhalation.
    # R24 Toxic in contact with skin.
    # R25 Toxic if swallowed.
    # R26 Very toxic by inhalation.
    # R27 Very toxic in contact with skin.
    # R28 Very toxic if swallowed.
    # R29 Contact with water liberates toxic gas.
    # R30 Can become highly flammable in use.
    # R31 Contact with acids liberates toxic gas.
    # R32 Contact with acid liberates very toxic gas.
    # R33 Danger of cumulative effects.
    # R34 Causes burns.
    # R35 Causes severe burns.
    # R36 Irritating to eyes.
    # R37 Irritating to respiratory system.
    # R38 Irritating to skin.
    # R39 Danger of very serious irreversible effects.
    # R40 Limited evidence of a carcinogenic effect.
    # R41 Risk of serious damage to the eyes.
    # R42 May cause sensitization by inhalation.
    # R43 May cause sensitization by skin contact.
    # R44 Risk of explosion if heated under confinement.
    # R45 May cause cancer.
    # R46 May cause heritable genetic damage.
    # R47 May cause birth defects
    # R48 Danger of serious damage to health by prolonged exposure.
    # R49 May cause cancer by inhalation.
    # R50 Very toxic to aquatic organisms.
    # R51 Toxic to aquatic organisms.
    # R52 Harmful to aquatic organisms.
    # R53 May cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.
    # R54 Toxic to flora.
    # R55 Toxic to fauna.
    # R56 Toxic to soil organisms.
    # R57 Toxic to bees.
    # R58 May cause long-term adverse effects in the environment.
    # R59 Dangerous to the ozone layer.
    # R60 May impair fertility.
    # R61 May cause harm to the unborn child.
    # R62 Risk of impaired fertility.
    # R63 Possible risk of harm to the unborn child.
    # R64 May cause harm to breastfed babies.
    # R65 Harmful: may cause lung damage if swallowed.
    # R66 Repeated exposure may cause skin dryness or cracking.
    # R67 Vapours may cause drowsiness and dizziness.
    # R68 Possible risk of irreversible effects.

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