Journalism in the Public Interest

Scientists Confirm Subsea Oil Plumes Are Definitively BP’s Oil


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Scientists from the University of South Florida announced on Friday that they have “definitively connected” the underwater oil plumes to BP’s ruptured—and still slightly leaking—well in the Gulf.

Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed that the oil plumes were from BP’s well. At the time, that conclusion was based on what the agency called a “preponderance of evidence,” but no chemical fingerprinting of samples had yet conclusively determined origin.

A team of Florida scientists was trying to perform the chemical fingerprinting, but as we noted, BP had initially refused to provide it with samples of oil from its well. After several Florida lawmakers intervened, BP representatives said the scientists would receive their samples, and three weeks later, the company handed them over.

One of the scientists, chemical oceanographer David Hollander, called the spill a “three-dimensional catastrophe.” Hollander had earlier called BP’s refusal to provide samples “a little unsettling.”

NOAA also released a new analysis of the subsea oil. That analysis confirmed that the “subsurface oil concentrations are highest near the wellhead and become more diffuse farther away from the source,” and that areas of lower oxygen readings are also where concentrations of oil are elevated.

According to NOAA, this could be due to oil- and methane-eating microbes that deplete oxygen in the water—potentially exacerbating the Gulf’s “dead zones.”

One marine sciences professor told McClatchy Newspapers last week that these microbes have grown “surprisingly fast” within oil plumes. 

Peter Beltjens

July 26, 2010, 2:20 p.m.

I’m still wondering why BP and the Feds haven’t hooked up the hoses and continued to relieve the pressure on the new cap by pumping oil up to the ships. Also why does this proceedure require oil by released into the gulf for 2 to 3 days while the hoses are connected.

The oil eating bacteria interests me, particularly since it works in a salt water environment. Is there more than one species in the gulf? Does it (or do they) have a name(s)?  Can this process be enhanced? Is there a risk involved with providing the bacteria with unlimited food? Good job all around, MW.

Marian Wang as usual has compiled a first-rate confirmation of the true, actual situation. I gather this is necessary because so many have been in denial of the most basic facts of this “sea monster,” as has become known to many. The University of Florida research team must have come under some attack from BP loyalists for this even to have become necessary. But then BP’s legal defense would depend on some sort of byzantine rejection of the facts of the matter if at all possible.

1. Land application of oily based waste products has been utilized in the past, utilizing certain “bugs” to consume the products. It would be interesting to know if there is any correlations between the ocean “bacteria” and those “bugs” utilized in land application.
2. I have seen very little reference to the natural occurring evaporative effects on the gulf oil spill. I. E. with all of the extremely hot weather this should have been enhanced. The real question, at least for the surface, is how much of the lighter hydrocarbons have evaporated over the last 90 days, as a percentage of the entire amount produced from the leaking well.

BP attacked America with corruption, lies, corner-cutting, during a time of 2 wars, BP made America less safe and less prepared and less strong, during a crisis, they did so illegally, feeling themselves above the law and better than good decent Americans.  The CEOs know where ticking time bombs are.  Time of War, Yoo Memo, organ failure or death.  Shoot Tony Hayward in the head 200 f—-ing times.  F—- you all BP apologists.  America vs. BP.

Theodore Schaper

July 27, 2010, 3:54 p.m.

I am a Pipifitter and have worked on wells not oil. It is rediculous to cap off the well. If they connect on to the reverse funnel with an oversize casing such as 12” or larger it will release the back pressure and the oil can free flow to ships on the surface with out the back pressure. They can seal the groung connection with drillers mud and have no leaks.

There`s far too much conjecture going on in this article. NOOA reports have said that after 15km distance from the wellhead, there are only trace amounts of subsurface oil which is not significantly higher than normal hydrocarbon readings sampled in the past; now we`ve got someone sounding really really desperate to find giant plumes of subsurface oil. It`s beginning to sound like some interested party(ies) must justify a 20bn shakedown to me.

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Gulf Oil Spill

The BP oil disaster in the Gulf has had untold health, economic and environmental effects.

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