Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (OpenStax Chemistry 2e)
The blowout of the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico near Mississippi began the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. In the 87 days following the blowout, an estimated 4.9 million barrels (210 million gallons) of oil flowed from the ruptured well 5000 feet below the water’s surface. The well was finally declared sealed on September 19, 2010.
Crude oil is immiscible with and less dense than water, so the spilled oil rose to the surface of the water. Floating booms, skimmer ships, and controlled burns were used to remove oil from the water’s surface in an attempt to protect beaches and wetlands along the Gulf coast. In addition to removal of the oil, attempts were also made to lessen its environmental impact by rendering it “soluble” (in the loose sense of the term) and thus allowing it to be diluted to hopefully less harmful levels by the vast volume of ocean water. This approach used 1.84 million gallons of the oil dispersant Corexit 9527, most of which was injected underwater at the site of the leak, with small amounts being sprayed on top of the spill. Corexit 9527 contains 2-butoxyethanol (C6H14O2), an amphiphilic molecule whose polar and nonpolar ends are useful for emulsifying oil into small droplets, increasing the surface area of the oil and making it more available to marine bacteria for digestion (Figure 1). While this approach avoids many of the immediate hazards that bulk oil poses to marine and coastal ecosystems, it introduces the possibility of long-term effects resulting from the introduction of the complex and potential toxic components of petroleum into the ocean’s food chain. A number of organizations are involved in monitoring the extended impact of this oil spill, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Flowers, P., Theopold, K., Langley, R., & Robinson, W. R. (2019, February 14). Chemistry 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/books/chemistry-2e
Date Published: October 25, 2018 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Eze Simpson Osuagwu, Eseoghene Olaifa, Geir Ottersen. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0205114 Abstract: The Niger Delta region is the oil producing area of Nigeria, which consists of highly diverse ecosystems that are supportive of numerous species of terrestrial and aquatic fauna and flora. Crude oil spills endanger fish … Continue reading
Date Published: April 11, 2018 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Wokil Bam, Linda M. Hooper-Bui, Rachel M. Strecker, Puspa L. Adhikari, Edward B. Overton, Vanesa Magar. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194941 Abstract: Terrestrial arthropods play an important role in saltmarsh ecosystems, mainly affecting the saltmarsh’s primary production as the main consumers of terrestrial primary production and decomposition. Some … Continue reading
Research Article: A Tale of Two Recent Spills—Comparison of 2014 Galveston Bay and 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Residues
Date Published: February 25, 2015 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Fang Yin, Joel S. Hayworth, T. Prabhakar Clement, James P. Meador. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0118098 Abstract: Managing oil spill residues washing onto sandy beaches is a common worldwide environmental problem. In this study, we have analyzed the first-arrival oil spill residues collected from two Gulf of Mexico … Continue reading
Research Article: Novel Pathways for Injury from Offshore Oil Spills: Direct, Sublethal and Indirect Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Pelagic Sargassum Communities
Date Published: September 25, 2013 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Sean P. Powers, Frank J. Hernandez, Robert H. Condon, J. Marcus Drymon, Christopher M. Free, Ahmed Moustafa. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0074802 Abstract: The pelagic brown alga Sargassum forms an oasis of biodiversity and productivity in an otherwise featureless ocean surface. The vast pool of oil resulting from … Continue reading