Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gulf Oil Update: Day 152

What's Going On In The Gulf?

Washington's Blog
Thursday, September 16, 2010

BP and the government decided that millions of gallons of dispersants should be dumped into the Gulf to sink and hide the oil.

They succeeded in sinking it. As ABC, CBS and NPR note, huge quantities of oil are blanketing the ocean floor, killing virtually all of the sealife which lives there.

And giant new underwater plumes have been found in the water column itself.

But officials don't want to hear about them. As one member of the oil spill recovery team said:

“My biggest concern is there’s [a plume of oil] five miles by 30 miles out there that was reported and no one responded. The Coast Guard said for days that they wanted to run tests, and if they don’t test it when it’s called in, they’ll never find it”

But didn't the oil-eating microbes eat alot of the oil? No ... they mainly ate gas.

And the oil is not staying underwater.
Oil is suddenly emerging in many parts of the Gulf.

Oil "patties", 1 to 3 inches across, have been discovered floating along the seawall in Alabama.

16 miles of beaches in Louisiana have been hit. And scientists say that the oil will arise and wash ashore in pulses, and will hit sensitive areas like coastal marshes.

As the Christian Science Monitor notes, oil can remain hidden under sand for decades: MORE...

Obama Oil Spill Commission INTIMIDATING SCIENTISTS — Investigating whether they ILLEGALLY SAMPLED GULF without permits


Shallower plume found at Deepwater Horizon site HERE...
September 12, 2010

A previously unidentified plume of hydrocarbons approximately 200 meters deep has been discovered by scientists on the R/V Cape Hatteras. The new plume appears to run south and east of the Deepwater Horizon site.

Earlier in the week, the Cape Hatteras collected samples to the west of the main plume, which runs southwest from the well site at about 1,200 meters. A number of research cruises have been collecting data on this plume, which the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is aggregating onto one grid. But on Thursday last week, the R/V Oceanus, conducting research under the same National Science Foundation (NSF) grant as the Hatteras, reported lower beam transmission, a data signal indicative of increased methane levels and the presence of hydrocarbons, between 200 and 300 meters. The Hatteras steamed more than 10 hours back to where these readings were taken, in the vicinity of the well site, to investigate further. "While I would like to have found the western edge of the main plume we've all been mapping," chief scientist Tracy Villareal said, "this new development was way too exciting not to pursue.”

Indeed, data collected by the Hatteras all day on 10 September along a transect some 40 nautical miles long, provided strong evidence of a new, shallower plume. Those data include real-time high beam attenuation measurements, says Villareal, and elevated levels of methane in lab tests of water samples. Antje Vossmeyer, a scientist with the University of Georgia, Athens, working on board the Hatteras (see picture), reports measuring consistently elevated methane on the order of as much as 100 times background levels along this transect.

By end of the day on Friday, the Hatteras had completed the transect, which ran south and east of the well. Villareal notes that while some earlier models indicated a plume to the southeast of the well, the model placed it at much great depths. "This is not the plume shown on the model," he said. "This is an entirely new one." The final station on Friday recorded smaller anomalies, indicating that the eastern edge of the plume might be near. On Saturday 11 September, the ship ran a transect northward, on the east side of the well, hoping to locate the northern edge of the plume.

Last week, the Oceanus also discovered oiled sediment on the bottom of the Gulf, reported in a previous 'oil spill science' post and on the University of Georgia marine science department Gulf Oil Blog.

This search for oil faces many challenges, not least of which is the sheer size of the Gulf of Mexico. The Hatteras can steam for hours and cover mere inches on the map. So much water, often thousands of meters deep, offers so many places oil could be, or could go. It would take months, even years, of the methodical, careful sampling these scientists are carrying out to say with any confidence that all the oil has been found.

It will take even more work, back in labs as well as at sea, to say what effect that oil has had on the Gulf's ecosystems.
But those on the Hatteras, working diligently through station after station on this 27-day cruise, believe it is important to try. They clearly get excited about discoveries such as the new plume, which warranted a posting on the lab whiteboard, "We are documenting a new hydrocarbon plume. Very cool!”


The distribution of these newly-identified layers showing elevated concentrations of methane and particles present an unusual pattern, but scientists involved in the sampling mission are emphasising that their origin is not yet clear. “We cannot with any level of confidence whatsoever link this methane or other data to the Deepwater Horizon wellhead,” cautioned Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia Athens scientist on board the R/VOceanus, which is working in tandem with the Hatteras. (Two scientists on the Hatteras, including Vossmeyer, collect data specifically for Joye's studies.) “At this time, use of the word plume is even inappropriate.”

The northern Gulf of Mexico contains many natural seeps, and there is, as yet, no clear linkage between these latest data and the well blow-out. This contrasts with the plume found earlier in the summer, where it was possible to track an increasing intensity of hydrocarbons along transect lines running southwest from the wellhead, clearly connecting that deep plume to the well.

To determine whether this new feature derives from Deepwater Horizon, Joye says, will require “fingerprinting” the samples in the lab after the cruise ends this Thursday. Throughout Sunday and Monday, the Hatteras continued running transects in shallower waters to the north of the well site, collecting data to map the extent and intensity of these new layers.

Posted on behalf of Melissa Gaskill

Focusing in on oil

By Samantha Joye PhD, University of Georgia, Marine Biology
The Gulf Oil Blog
Published: September 6, 2010 8:55am

September 5th, 2010: Sometimes, I get a feeling that the day is going to offer some surprises. This morning, I had a feeling.

We’ve spent a lot of time in the Southwest quadrant over the past two weeks searching for oil and gas. We’ve seen mostly weak signals. The sediments at the sites we visited during that time were oxidized and did not contain a lot of gas or oil.

Until we sampled at a site about 20 miles offshore from Mississippi, we did not see oil along the seafloor. At that station, we saw a thin layer (couple of mm) of what looked like sedimented oil. We won’t know the oil content (or source) until we do detailed analyses after the cruise but oil has a distinct feel and this sediment felt oily. We got a glimpse of what we had expected to see.

Today, at a site about 16 nautical miles from the wellhead, we dropped the multicorer into a valley. When the instrument returned from the bottom, it contained something we had not seen before: a layer of flocculent, sedimented oil that was cm’s thick.

At a natural oil seep, the entire sediment column is saturated with oil. Cores of sediment collected from natural seeps are oil-stained top to bottom and often the water overlying the sediment core has a thick (mm to cm) layer of crude oil floating at the top. Natural oil seep sediments are distinctive. The photos of cores [proceed to the Gulf Oil Blog to view pictures of core sediments] shown from GC185 are extreme examples (they are VERY oily!) but the point is that the entire sediment column is oil stained at a natural seep. At the site we visited today, the oil obviously came from the top (down from the water column) not the bottom (up from a deep reservoir).

What we found today is not a natural seep.

We collected control sediments in a region to the south east of the wellhead that was never overlain by the blowout oil slick. Those sediments consisted of fine grained sediment mixed with calcareous ooze. There was no hint of oil in the control sediments.

The near shore sediments contained grayish muddy clay and a thin layer of orange-brown oil at the surface.

The sediments we collected today were similar at the bottom — gray muddy clay — but the upper few cm consisted of oil floc — we call it “oil aggregate snow”, because it settled down to the water column to the seafloor just like snow falls from the sky to the ground.

If you take a close look at the snow layer, oil aggregates are clearly visible. Also visible are pteropod shells (which must have been recently deposited because the shells dissolve rapidly) and remnants of zooplankton (skeletons) and benthic infauna (dead worms and their tubes). Microbial aggregates are visible and abundant but the normal invertebrate fauna you’d expect to see in these sediments are not.

We will determine how much oil is in this thick layer and evaluate the rates of microbial breakdown when we return to UGA. We want to know how much oil there is along the seafloor at other sites. So, tomorrow, we will go to a site about 12 nautical miles northwest of the wellhead and run a full station there. We’ll see what the sediments look like there and with that knowledge, we’ll decide where to go next.


Bio-Remediation or Bio-Hazard? Dispersants, Bacteria and Illness in the Gulf

Riki Ott (Marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor at
The Huffington Post
Posted: September 17, 2010 12:28 AM

Ocean Springs, MS -- A grandmother made me rethink all the bio-remediation hype. The "naturally-occurring oil-eating bacteria" have been newsworthy of late as they are supposedly going to come to the rescue of President Obama and BP and make good on their very premature statement that "the oil is gone." (Editor's NOTE: one in particular Alcanivorax borkumensis is detailed HERE...)

We were talking about subsurface oil in the Gulf when she said matter-of-factly, "The bacteria are running amok with the dispersants." What? "Those oil-eating bacteria -- I think they're running amok and causing skin rashes." My mind reeled. Could we all have missed something so simple?

The idea was crazy but, in the context of the Gulf situation -- an outbreak of mysterious persistent rashes from southern Louisiana across to just north of Tampa, Florida, coincident with BP's oil and chemical release, it seemed suddenly worthy of investigating.

I first heard about the rash from Sheri Allen in Mobile, Alabama. Allen wrote of red welts and blisters on her legs after "splashing and wading on the shoreline" of Mobile Bay with her two dogs on May 8. She reported that "hundreds of dead fish" washed up on the same beach over the following two days. This was much too early for the summer sun to have warmed the water to the point of oxygen depletion, but not too early for dispersants and dispersed oil to be mixed into the Gulf's water mass. By early July, Allen's rash had healed, leaving black bruises and scarring.

Dr. Riki Ott’s Concern Over Dispersants


Gulf Shores Alabama Mayor Opens West Beach Pass Despite Oil On Beach

By admin
September 15, 2010

The Mayor of Gulf Shores, Robert Craft, opened West Beach Pass the gateway to the most pristine estuary in Alabama; the only oil free area left in the state. The mayor stated, “There’s no indication of any contaminates coming in from the mouth of the Pass”.

James Fox visited the beaches there and took footage of the oil in the waters.

Will you allow your children to swim in these waters?

Toxic Oil & Dispersant Found On Gulf Floor 8/17/10
Oil Sedimenting on Floor of Gulf of Mexico also Affecting Phytoplankton

No comments: