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Post-Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Study Image 1
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Post-Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Study (Image 1)

February 13, 2013
In the Gulf of Mexico, natural gas including methane, ethane, propane and butane that was collected with a containment cap on the sea floor is flared at the surface by the drillship Discoverer Enterprise. The amount of gas being flared represents about 15 percent of the gas emitted into the deep ocean by the Deepwater Horizon spill and trapped there. This work was done by a team of researchers, led by David Valentine of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and John Kessler of Texas A&M university, that embarked on a research cruise with the mission of determining the fate and impact of hydrocarbon gases that were escaping from the deep-water oil spill. The disaster provided a rare opportunity to study the behavior of methane and other natural gases in deep water. Experiments by the team were conducted as close as 1,500 feet from the epicenter of the active spill. Underwater sampling devices and sensors were used to measure hydrocarbons and oxygen depletion at various depths, and to collect water samples to study the biodegradation of natural gas and the associated blooms of bacteria. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation (grants OCE 10-42097, OCE 09-61725 and OCE 10-42650) and the Department of Energy. To learn more about this research and the team's findings, see the Santa Barbara Independent news story Deep Hydrocarbon Plumes in Gulf Oil Spill Documented; or the Nature story Oil-spill Bacteria Gobbled Gases First. (Date of Image: June 2010)


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