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Around 200,000 Tons of Deep Water Horizon Oil and Gas Consumed By Bacteria

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the sludge-monster-rises-from-gulf dept.

Earth 170

SchrodingerZ writes "The University of Rochester and Texas A&M University have determined that in the five months following the Deepwater Horizon Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, bacteria have consumed over 200,000 tons of oil and natural gas. The researched was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (abstract). 'A significant amount of the oil and gas that was released was retained within the ocean water more than one-half mile below the sea surface. It appears that the hydrocarbon-eating bacteria did a good job of removing the majority of the material that was retained in these layers," said co-author John Kessler of the University of Rochester.' The paper debuts for the first time 'the rate at which the bacteria ate the oil and gas changed as this disaster progressed, information that is fundamental to understanding both this spill and predicting the behavior of future spills.' It was also noted that the oil and gas consumption rate was correlated with the addition of dispersants at the wellhead (video). Still, an estimated 40% of the oil and natural gas from the spill remains in the Gulf today."

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Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312073)

IIRC, the usual assortment of enviro-wacko Chicken Littles were saying this was going to destroy gulf fishing for decades, kill millions of animals, etc.

Why do the Chicken Littles always seem to disappear when their predictions fail, yet again, to come true? When there's a drought or a heat wave, they're always the first to jump in front of the mic screaming "Global warming--Weesa all gonna die!!!." When it's flooding or mild--nowhere to be found. Oil well rupture, "End of the World! Run for your lives!" Rupture turns out to not have much of an effect at all--hey, where did they go?

Guess they're off preparing for the next disaster that's going to destroy us all.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 2 years ago | (#41312159)

Still an estimated 40% of the oil and natural gas from the spill is still in the Gulf today.

Read that. Basically, you seem like you'd be happy if I served you a glass of my piss, but before I served it to you I removed 60% of the piss and replaced it with pure water.

Some of us are not "enviro-wacko"s, but are not comfortable with self-regulating companies. We learned from the pre 1920's when corporations ran rampant. We learned from the period before 1970 or 1980 when companies polluted without consequences. I want progress. I want oil drilling. I don't want a blank check for BP and others to pollute or shortcut on safety.

I miss BadAnalogyGuy... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312257)

just as much as you do, but this is ridiculous:

Read that. Basically, you seem like you'd be happy if I served you a glass of my piss, but before I served it to you I removed 60% of the piss and replaced it with pure water.

More like: 60% of the pee Michael Phelps put in the pool during the Olympics has been filtered out. Fancy a swim?

Re:I miss BadAnalogyGuy... (5, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 years ago | (#41312683)

Pee is mostly water, containing a small fraction of contaminants.

Oil on the other hand, is 100% concentrated contaminant.

Can't compare the two so easily.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312299)

These weren't self-regulated. They were heavily regulated. It's just the regulators get bought off. A system with unrestricted liability would be so much better than the current system where even the most heavily regulated industries get to act as if there is zero regulation. For example the only industry more regulated than the financial industry, was the medical one, yet that didn't stop massive fraud and abuse.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#41312437)

Pretty sure buying off regulators is self-regulation.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (5, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41312617)

Pretty sure buying off regulators is self-regulation.

Now all you need to do is get the rest of us to agree with you. My view is that heavy regulation doesn't become self-regulation merely because society fails to enforce it. It just becomes unenforced regulation.

While the two look similar functionally, it's worth remembering that solutions to the problems are different. If self-regulation doesn't work, then one can apply a fix merely by adding regulation that addresses the deficiencies. (Of course, you might create new problems by doing so. Just pointing how the process works.)

If regulation is unenforced, then it doesn't matter how much you add, it'll still be unenforced. So it is possible in such a case to end up with both heavy regulation and an industry that would disappear, if that regulation were ever enforced according to the letter of the law. (some industries, say the assassination industry, aren't worth having, but most such industries have benefit as well as cost, and would still exist in a reasonable regulation environment.)

Another problem is that regulation can be selectively unenforced. That allows certain companies to enjoy state-granted competitive advantages. Self-regulation doesn't create such opportunities. But it does have the disadvantage of the prisoners' dilemma. Namely, that businesses which voluntarily sacrifice in certain ways can be taken advantage of by businesses that do not.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (2)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41312641)

Another issue is that unenforced regulation can still end up with society paying for a bunch of regulators. It's just regulators that aren't for whatever reason doing their jobs. Self-regulation doesn't have this diversion of resources.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 years ago | (#41313047)

Don't forget the cost of misregulation.

Like required Freddy and Fanny to buy junk mortgages on the secondary market.

When regulators have political axes to grind the regulations can be astoundingly expensive.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#41313127)

What's needed is guns to the heads of the CEOs, Boards of Directors and top shareholders, with a promise that if such spills are not completely resolved in five years entirely at the company's cost, most assuredly the triggers will be pulled.

I doubt you would need any more regulation than that.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 2 years ago | (#41312879)

So the part where the company copied and pasted its disaster plan for deep sea drilling from an off-shore drilling disaster plan doesn't sounds any alarm bells for you....

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41312969)

Why should it sound alarm bells? Deep sea drilling is also off-shore drilling and there are considerable similarities between the two activities. As it turns out, we can look at the actual disaster recovery plan and see what actually happened. And whatever they did have, plan or not, worked pretty well.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#41312301)

Given that artic drilling has been given the go ahead by various countries in water twice as deep and much colder with consequently little potential baterial cleanup if theres a spill, I doubt the powers that be really give a damn. So long as government get their taxes, the oilmen get their profits and idiots can drive 15mpg 2.5 ton SUVs to go to the supermarket it seems the enviroment doesn't matter.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312343)

Regulation certainly paid off on this one!

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 2 years ago | (#41312401)

I don't want a blank check for BP

- then get rid of government in energy and in business regulations and moral hazard production, because BP had a go ahead from the government to do whatever, since their liability was only up to 75,000,000 USD per incident, and that's a penny to them, it's called a moral hazard. That's the same stuff that gov't did with fake money for the entire financial system and for the entire economy, that's the same thing they did with all the other fake insurance that they provide (fake, because real insurance must have actual assets in a fund, gov't doesn't, it relies on money printing and its supposed ability to raise taxes to cover their expenses).

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312675)

Like the old saying goes - a barrel of piss with a teaspoon of wine in it is still a barrel of piss, but a barrel of wine with a teaspoon of piss in it...is a barrel of piss.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (1, Interesting)

flimflammer (956759) | about 2 years ago | (#41312741)

Basically, you seem like you'd be happy if I served you a glass of my piss, but before I served it to you I removed 60% of the piss and replaced it with pure water.

Are you implying that 40% of the ocean is now oil?

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312911)

Well there is the other side of the coin, where oil leakage is "natural"t:

http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/putting-the-gulf-oil-spill-into-perspective---natural-oil-seepage-from-the-oceans-floor-is-common/blog-334195/

Now continue it further: The article points out that in previous centuries "oil spills" were common (or at least easily noticed by the explorers). Now what if with all of this drilling of oil, that the pressure has been reduced, and currently all natural oil spills have been mostly eliminated? It would be ironic if that in order to "re-balance" nature we would have to make more oil spills occur.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (2)

roccomaglio (520780) | about 2 years ago | (#41312953)

The actual text from the article. "Our results suggest that some (about 40%) of the released hydrocarbons that once populated these layers still remained in the Gulf post September 2010, so food was available for the feast to continue at some later time. But the location of those substances and whether they were biochemically transformed is unknown." This does not seem to be exactly what you are quoting.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (1)

OverkillTASF (670675) | about 2 years ago | (#41313723)

No. It would be more like if you peed 160 million gallons of piss into a 343 quintillion gallon glass. And then you removed 96 million gallons of piss.
Or you served me a 12 fl. oz cup of water, peed .000000000005598 fl oz. into the cup, and then removed .0000000000033588 fl oz. of your piss.

I'd still be horrified that you peed into my glass of water.

Re:Where have all the Chicken Littles gone? (1, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#41313111)

40% of the oil remains in the gulf. Or, to put it more simply, you're a fucking retard.

Press release (0)

ISoldat53 (977164) | about 2 years ago | (#41312111)

Sounds like a BP press release.

A society without an attention span (5, Insightful)

concealment (2447304) | about 2 years ago | (#41312117)

Politics in a democracy involve two sides cheering for their own while doing anything they can to damage the other side.

Whenever a disaster happens, whichever side that named its underlying cause as an issue makes a huge deal of the event. To gain maximum publicity for their (righteous) cause, they overstates the event and style it as a new coming apocalypse.

Then months later when the consequence isn't as big as they thought, the event and the issue it represents pass out of public consciousness.

There's a nasty see-saw effect as a result. We're either full on an issue, or have forgotten it, and our legislators write law accordingly. It's like a society without an attention span.

Re:A society without an attention span (5, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | about 2 years ago | (#41312593)

A narrow view.

The bacteria digested the oil, but what did they excrete. If they multiplied and now have no meal, they starve, and their carcasses in turn become something else. There was a process applied to the spilled oil by the bacteria. Is the remainder environmentally tenable? None of that seems to have been addressed.

No measurements have been made of long term effects as of yet, and so we don't know 1) quantity of remaining undigested oil 2) rate at which it can reasonably be digested 3) interim effects on ecosystems in the Gulf at this estimated rate 4) how much remaining oil there is to feed the equation 5) what current fishing rates do to the population, and what might replace the population given these rates, and more.

Democracy is weighing more than two sides of a question, as there are almost always more than two sides to a question. You're just used to American politics, which have devolved to become polarizing.

Re:A society without an attention span (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 years ago | (#41313021)

The bacteria digested the oil, but what did they excrete. If they multiplied and now have no meal, they starve, and their carcasses in turn become something else.

So... you're saying if we come up with something that eats said bacteria, everything will be fine right? EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE, RIGHT!?!?

Re:A society without an attention span (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about 2 years ago | (#41313099)

What might eat the bacteria; what part of which food chain were/are benefiting? What about bacteria excrement? What is that, and how does it help/hurt? What eats oil-digesting bacteria poo? At what rate? To benefit what food chains and ecosystems? That's what's wrong trying to make sense of the report cited; it only serves as a very interesting data point, not something that you can make judgments with easily, if at all.

Re:A society without an attention span (2)

navyjeff (900138) | about 2 years ago | (#41313321)

... That’s the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

Re:A society without an attention span (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 2 years ago | (#41313793)

Hydrocarbons are hydrogen and carbon. They combine with oxygen to produce CO2. Sugar is the same way: apply oxygen to C6H12O6 and you get H2O (H6O12 becomes 6 x H2O) and C6 + O (C6 + O2 gives you 6 x CO2 if you can find 6 O2). Yes, sugar--food--is basically air (CO2), water (H2O), and sunlight (to strip the O2 off the CO2 and attach the remaining C to the H2O to give CH2O and O2).

We're dealing with CH4 here or basically C(n)H(2(n+1)) which when combined with oxygen gives CO2 and H2O. News flash: it's a fuel source, it burns.

We dealt with all the oil by burning it.

Re:A society without an attention span (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#41312997)

Politics in a democracy involve two sides cheering for their own while doing anything they can to damage the other side.

Whenever a disaster happens, whichever side that named its underlying cause as an issue makes a huge deal of the event. To gain maximum publicity for their (righteous) cause, they overstates the event and style it as a new coming apocalypse.

Your position ignores that sometimes there is an objectively "correct" thing to do and that sometimes, someone is objectively wrong for arguing against it.

Then months later when the consequence isn't as big as they thought, the event and the issue it represents pass out of public consciousness.

There's a nasty see-saw effect as a result. We're either full on an issue, or have forgotten it, and our legislators write law accordingly. It's like a society without an attention span.

Do you know why Nixon (that notorious liberal) created the EPA?
The second largest (deep water is #1) oil spill in American history brought so much attention to environmental issues that he had no choice.

That was 42 years ago. I wouldn't call 42 years "forgotten" or "see-saw effect" or "without an attention span."

Re:A society without an attention span (1)

dpilot (134227) | about 2 years ago | (#41313023)

> It's like a society without an attention span.

That's only part of the story. When you talk about society's "attention span" you have to talk about what's being put front-and-center as "news" by the media.

One deeper cause is our current trend of calculating the financials on everything, cutting costs as much as possible and maximizing profits. In particular, if you decide that delivering the news is a financial matter rather than a sacred trust necessary to maintain our democracy, you start turning the news into infotainment.

Maybe it's our fault, for not demanding real news, particularly for not demanding news that we may disagree with, that we may find unpleasant. But there are 2 sides to every issue, (at least) 2 parties to every "agreement", and the media are certainly participating in this race-to-the-bottom.

Re:A society without an attention span (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313191)

Politics in a democracy involve two sides cheering for their own while doing anything they can to damage the other side.

No, that's politics in a limited two-party representative republic.

Politics in a democracy is American Idol.

I thank the gods daily that I do not live in a democracy.

We must destroy this bacteria. (5, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#41312119)

How dare they eat our precious, precious oil.

Re:We must destroy this bacteria. (1)

dccase (56453) | about 2 years ago | (#41312219)

I hope they don't crawl down the well and eat the rest of it!

Re:We must destroy this bacteria. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312687)

I for one...bow...to our ... oil-slurping ... bacteria?

What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (5, Insightful)

divisionbyzero (300681) | about 2 years ago | (#41312129)

It's not like the oil just "goes away". It gets transformed into other materials. Are those hazardous? Is the Gulf now a giant cesspool of bacterial waste?

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312165)

Bacteria shit.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (2)

artemis67 (93453) | about 2 years ago | (#41312195)

More like a cycle of life... the oil spill is eaten by the bacteria, and then the bacteria get eaten by something else, which then gets eaten by something else.

I'm wondering what the fishing boats in the Gulf are seeing, if there was a corresponding explosion of growth in populations of shrimp or such.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (0)

alexhs (877055) | about 2 years ago | (#41312265)

I'm wondering what the fishing boats in the Gulf are seeing, if there was a corresponding explosion of growth in populations of shrimp or such.

Not exactly. [hottubbliss.com]

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (3, Interesting)

M. Baranczak (726671) | about 2 years ago | (#41312339)

I'm wondering what the fishing boats in the Gulf are seeing, if there was a corresponding explosion of growth in populations of shrimp or such.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill#Fisheries [wikipedia.org]

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (4, Interesting)

nahdude812 (88157) | about 2 years ago | (#41312523)

The money quote from that article regarding whether there is a corresponding explosion of population of life that feeds on this bacteria:

In late 2012 local fishermen report that crab, shrimp, and oyster fishing operations have not yet recovered from the oil spill and many fear that the Gulf seafood industry will never recover. One Mississippi shrimper who was interviewed said he used to get 8,000 pounds of shrimp in four days, but this year he got only 800 pounds a week. Mississippi's oyster reefs have been closed since the spill started. A Louisanna fisherman said the local oyster industry might do 35 per cent this year, "If we're very lucky." Dr Ed Cake, a biological oceanographer and a marine and oyster biologist, said that many of the Gulf fisheries have collapsed and "If it takes too long for them to come back, the fishing industry won't survive".[314]

So... no. If I had to speculate, the bacteria is most effective in high concentrations of dispersant. That dispersant is likely detrimental to higher lifeforms, so it's probably a smorgasbord of poisoned food. A shrimper who pulls in around 6% of his pre-disaster haul, that sounds like a completely devastated ecology. Also from the above article, they used dispersants right as tuna were spawning, and it takes a tuna fish 5-15 years to mature, so the effects of that might not hit the tuna fishing industry for 3 more years.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 years ago | (#41312727)

These effects on fisheries can very well be because of the remaining 40% of the oil. That's still a lot of oil, and many lifeforms perish quickly when there is oil in the water.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (1)

formfeed (703859) | about 2 years ago | (#41313497)

I'm wondering what the fishing boats in the Gulf are seeing, if there was a corresponding explosion of growth in populations of shrimp or such.

Yes. Giant shrimp.
And the best thing: you don't have to put butter on them.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312213)

The oil is transformed into the bacteria themselves. When it's all gone, the bacteria die, and the dead bacteria become food for some other organism.

Fart Gas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312221)

No Gulf of Mexico is a beautiful location with copious amounts of very healthy sea life.

Little, if anything has, changed between pre-spill and today.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312227)

Oil eating bacteria produce carbon dioxide and water from the process of breaking down the oil. Carbon dioxide is a green-house gas, but one that would have been produced by burning the oil anyway.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (1)

DarkTempes (822722) | about 2 years ago | (#41312319)

They also consume the oxygen from the water to help that process, so when these oil spills happen a lot of times you have rampant bacteria growth that hurts other marine life that needs that oxygen.

Probably still better than having the oil in the water though.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#41312521)

Dead from oil or dead from lack of oxygen?

One isn't better than the other.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41312679)

Dead from oil or dead from lack of oxygen?

One isn't better than the other.

Dead from oil will likely lead to a lack of oxygen anyway but with the added benefit of petroleum byproducts and other persistent nastiness permeating everything...

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 2 years ago | (#41312233)

It's not like the oil just "goes away". It gets transformed into other materials.

And, most importantly, long before the bacteria can do anything with it, the damage to the fish, coral, and everything else is done.

Though, I'm sure some people will say that since these bacteria will eventually clean things up we can spill and not worry about it.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 years ago | (#41313059)

I'm sure some people will say that since these bacteria will eventually clean things up we can spill and not worry about it.

I think that's rather optimistic: I think most people had already moved onto not worrying about it while the well was still spewing at it's peak. Not because of bacteria or cleanup efforts, because they didn't live in the gulf and assume the environment won't ever change.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313309)

Everything gets cleaned up in the long run. Five billion years from now, the Sun will go into a red giant phase and engulf the Earth. Therefore, we don't need to worry about it.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (2)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 2 years ago | (#41312261)

It gets transformed into more bacteria and heat. And probably CO2 in the process.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312825)

So you're saying that, unlike humans and animals, bacteria never take a dump? Is that information reliable, since you don't know for sure if they produce CO2?

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (3, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41312455)

Is the Gulf now a giant cesspool of bacterial waste?

It's worth remembering that the Gulf, as well as most of the rest of the world, has always been a giant cesspool of bacterial waste.

Re:What kind of waste do these bacteria produce? (5, Informative)

mapkinase (958129) | about 2 years ago | (#41312481)

In principal, chemically, all of oil could be processed, with potential release/consumption of water and carbon dioxide.

In terms of elements, chemically, oil actually is pretty clean, it's just basic organic elements of life, as every one of you knows. Oil pollution problem is a result it's physical properties: viscosity, density, etc. Which results from oil being bunch of rather long polymers.

Theoretically, it does not make sense for bacteria that consumes oil to produce polymers longer than oil polymers, most likely, it couldn't exert nothing but carbon dioxide, water, methane - smaller molecular compounds.

That's the bacterial waste directly from oil metabolism. Theoretically there could be toxins from other aspects of bacteria's life.

Theoretically.

WCPGW? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312131)

What could possibly go wrong?

Apparently there's still a leak (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#41312185)

Not at the wellhead but oil matching the signature of the Macondo field is (or was earlier this year) leaking out of the seabed from somewhere. If the oil has found a fracture line out of the bottom of the dead well then to quote the song , There could be trouble ahead...

Re:Apparently there's still a leak (2)

danbert8 (1024253) | about 2 years ago | (#41312271)

Or they could be naturally occurring http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum_seep [wikipedia.org]

Re:Apparently there's still a leak (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#41312351)

Lets hope so. If a large fracture does open it'll be potentially unkillable and a large proportion of the contents of the field could escape into the ocean until the pressure is equalised making the wellhead spill seem like a small pot of ink.

It happens again and again in nature (5, Insightful)

Orga (1720130) | about 2 years ago | (#41312223)

This could easily have been a natural occurrence, at anytime nature could again just decide to expel tons of deep ocean oil, but because now people have $$$$ involved and it could be blamned on someone (sued) then it's all the news with the environmentalists. Anyone who actually has studied some Geology knows this was not a big deal for the environment... and please.. we need to talk in scales of centuries.. not months.

Re:It happens again and again in nature (0)

Orga (1720130) | about 2 years ago | (#41312249)

Here's a simple citation easily google'd

This is for the /. mods who love to just mark me troll
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/01/000127082228.htm [sciencedaily.com]

Re:It happens again and again in nature (5, Insightful)

Chalnoth (1334923) | about 2 years ago | (#41312367)

Sorry, but this, "It's a natural phenomenon!" argument just does not fly. A really, really simple way to see why this argument cannot be remotely reasonable is to look at pictures like the one posted on this article:
http://www.allword-news.co.uk/tag/louisiana-fish-deaths-raise-oil-spill-questions/ [allword-news.co.uk]

But to get into the nitty gritty of it, the article you linked says that it's "twice the Exxon Valdez spill each year," and that is likely spread out over a wide area and released in small amounts that are less likely to clump. Also, consider the magnitude: the Exxon Valdez spill between 260,000 and 750,000 barrels of oil. So if we take the high estimate, that's perhaps 1.5 million barrels of oil that normally spill into the Gulf of Mexico each year, likely spread over a wide area.

The Deepwater Horizon spill was around 4.9 million barrels of oil, all released in a short time (much less than a year), all in the same place. No, spills of this magnitude do not happen naturally (except perhaps in exceedingly rare circumstances). Yes, it is highly damaging to the ecosystem of parts of the Gulf.

Re:It happens again and again in nature (3, Interesting)

Orga (1720130) | about 2 years ago | (#41312721)

There are four regions offshore North America with known seeps. Two of these, the Gulf of Mexico and southern California, have a combined annual oil seep rate of 160,000 tonnes, derived by adding 140,000 tonnes, estimated from the Gulf of Mexico, and the estimate of 20,000 tonnes from Southern California.

source: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10388&page=192 [nap.edu]

Spills of that magnitude at one location might be rare but they still occur and looking at time in a geologic timescale they're simply not that big of a deal. Man has simply decided that it needs to feed of the seafood in that area, and swim on those beaches so a spill is something to complain about. A meteor impact wiping out 80% of all species on the planet you could deem damaging to the ecosystem, it's still a natural occurence, life still finds a way and the world still turns.

The pictures of dead fish sure prompt a lot of people to get upset I'm sure but it does not make this event even remotely unprecedented in nature.

Re:It happens again and again in nature (1)

Chalnoth (1334923) | about 2 years ago | (#41312767)

The difference is frequency. Sure, one spill like this every few million years might not be that unexpected. But what happens when we get one major spill ever decade or two?

Re:It happens again and again in nature (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313245)

What _IS_ naturally unprecedented is the deployment of the dispersants...

Re:It happens again and again in nature (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313541)

You're comparing apples to oranges and in doing so you just proved Chalnoth's point. 140,000 tonnes is the equivalent of 1 million barrels. That being an _annual_ rate compared to the time-span of a single event is HUGE, expecially if you consider the deepwater horizon event was nearly 5 times that annual rate.

Put it in perspective as it relates to yourself. Every breath you exhale a certain amount of carbon dioxide. That amount mixes with the air around you and disperses, never having any impact on your ability to retrieve oxygen from the air. Now, if you suddenly released FIVE YEARS-worth of carbon dioxide into a small room, you will die.

do those seem like the same scenarios to you?

Re:It happens again and again in nature (4, Interesting)

nahdude812 (88157) | about 2 years ago | (#41312821)

Your article states that twice an Exxon Valdez seeps into the gulf naturally each year. Their methodology is pretty suspect - measuring the thickness of naturally occurring oil on the surface, extrapolating the expected bacterial consumption rate and natural churn rate, and multiplying this by the surface area of the gulf. But I'll accept their figures for the sake of argument. So that's 84,000 m^3. Deepwater Horizon was 780,000 m^3, 18.6 times larger.

You're saying that releasing 18 times that volume over the course of only a few months in a single location about 40 miles from a coast probably doesn't have much if any measurable ecological impact? Maybe Exxon Valdez was no big deal either, I mean that's the Pacific Ocean, I'm sure there are hundreds of times that much oil seeping naturally into the ocean, right?

Re:It happens again and again in nature (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | about 2 years ago | (#41312393)

Yes but it wasn't nature it was BP and friends so I'm not sure what you're posting about. BP screws up, BP pays. Pretty simple.

Re:It happens again and again in nature (0)

Orga (1720130) | about 2 years ago | (#41312543)

I'm posting about the actual long-term effects to the environment certain people claim this is going to cause. Nature has mechanisms to deal with spills of this magnitude without any intervention from us. It could just have easily happened naturally.

Re:It happens again and again in nature (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41312759)

Nature has mechanisms to deal with spills of this magnitude without any intervention from us.

She certainly does; the question is, do you have the vaguest grasp of what those mechanisms entail?!

Re:It happens again and again in nature (1)

AGMW (594303) | about 2 years ago | (#41312913)

Yes but it wasn't nature it was BP's subcontractors so I'm not sure what you're posting about. BP's subcontractors screw up, BP pays, because the subcontractors have friends in high places. Pretty simple.

Fixed that for you

Re:It happens again and again in nature (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | about 2 years ago | (#41313489)

I acutally said "BP and friends" - I figured that would cover them and the subcontractors subsequently.

Re:It happens again and again in nature (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41312733)

Anyone who actually has studied some Geology knows this was not a big deal for the environment...

Surely I can't be the only one who thinks this should be modded funny!

Re:It happens again and again in nature (4, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 years ago | (#41312811)

They may say "twice the Exxon Valdez in a year" which may very well be true, but there are two giant differences:

1) both the Exxon Valdez and this Deep Water Horizon spills spilled their vast quantities of oil in hours or days, not spread over a year. They both caused a huge spike in oil concentrations, well over the naturally occuring spills.

2) the Exxon Valdez was at the surface, so the oil directly contaminated large parts of shoreline where the natural seep usually doesn't get to as it's all eaten by bacteria or dissolved in the water before it can reach the shore.

The reason there are natural spills all the time will certainly have helped in the clean-up of the Deep Water Horizon spill, as there is an existing ecosystem of oil-eating bacteria present. But to say "oh it doesn't matter as nature spills more" is false. Nature has a huge capacity when it comes to cleaning up our mess, given enough time, but that doesn't mean we should just allow it to happen.

Re:It happens again and again in nature (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#41313027)

I won't live for centuries, will you?

I want to be able to eat fish today, fisherman want to be able to make a living today. The question was never will the sea recover, it was what is the economic cost of the spill. Also what is the short term cost to the local environment?

Re:It happens again and again in nature (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 years ago | (#41313089)

So because a disaster COULD have been natural, the only reason one would try to prevent it from happening again is greed?

Interesting. You could die naturally at any time, therefore you must be greedy. Hurry up and die please.

Conversion process? (1)

jickerson (2714793) | about 2 years ago | (#41312247)

Curious if the bacteria use the hydrocarbons strictly to sustain their biological processes or if it is converted to another form (broken down into C02 & H20 or another combination)

Re:Conversion process? (2)

Chalnoth (1334923) | about 2 years ago | (#41312419)

From what little I know of biology, I'm almost certain they're used for fuel, meaning eventually broken down into a combination of H2O and CO2. There may be a few steps along the way, where the bacteria incorporate some of the hydrocarbons in their membranes for a short time, or break the longer hydrocarbon chains into shorter chains, releasing the smaller molecules back into the water for other bacteria to gobble up. But eventually it's basically all going to become H2O and CO2.

Super Hero Bacteria? (1)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | about 2 years ago | (#41312283)

I'm guessing they ate it to gain its super powers.

WormWood (1)

zenlessyank (748553) | about 2 years ago | (#41312323)

Maybe we can beat God to turning a third of our oceans to wormwood. I don't see the big deal in being able to catch pre-marinated seafood. Just add flour now and toss in the oven! I mean we have been breathing car exhaust for all of our lives so what is the big deal?

I like Gulf shrimp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312965)

so FUCK BP [popsci.com]

Yummy Bacteria (1)

psybre (921148) | about 2 years ago | (#41312325)

How soon can we harvest the bacteria to fuel our cars?

A drop in the bucket, comparably (0)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 2 years ago | (#41312373)

If one barrel is 306 pounds [info.com] and a ton is 2000 pounds then that's 400,000 pounds of oil consumed, or 1324 barrels. In contrast, BP trashed the Gulf with an estimated 5 million barrels [newamericamedia.org] .

It's interesting that bacteria are working hard to consume the spilled oil, but hardly a successful method of cleanup.

Re:A drop in the bucket, comparably (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 2 years ago | (#41312441)

200,000 tons is not 400,000 pounds. Try running your numbers again.

Re:A drop in the bucket, comparably (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#41312491)

You dropped a few zeros there. 200,000 tons * 2000 lbs / ton = 400,000,000 lbs. 400,000,000 lbs / 306 lbs / barrel = 1.3 million barrels. Still not close to the 5 million mark, but quite a bit better than your 1324 barrel figure.

Re:A drop in the bucket, comparably (1)

sunking2 (521698) | about 2 years ago | (#41312673)

That's the total release though which includes what has already been scooped up, chemically neutralized, washed on shore, cleaned off sea gull wings, broken down by sunlight, etc, etc.

Re:A drop in the bucket, comparably (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#41312585)

If one barrel is 306 pounds [info.com] and a ton is 2000 pounds then that's 400,000 pounds of oil consumed, or 1324 barrels. In contrast, BP trashed the Gulf with an estimated 5 million barrels [newamericamedia.org] .

It's interesting that bacteria are working hard to consume the spilled oil, but hardly a successful method of cleanup.

I don't know how you arrived at "400,000 lbs" from 200,000 tons, but I came up about 1.3M barrels of oil:

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=200000+tons++%2F+307+lbs%2Fbarrel [wolframalpha.com]

Which is still only about 25% of the spill, yet the article said that it accounts for 40% of the oil, what happened to the rest?

Re:A drop in the bucket, comparably (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#41312647)

You're off by a few zeros.

Re:A drop in the bucket, comparably (1)

AGMW (594303) | about 2 years ago | (#41312927)

... BP's subcontractors trashed the Gulf ...

Fixed that for you

But what happens to it? (3, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#41312483)

What happens to all of the oil they consume? When a person devours a large plate of nachos, much of that tasty food comes out as undesirable waste products that have to be carefully treated and disposed of.

Do they turn it into some other chemical? Do they just eat the oil, reproduce, and eventually die, leaving 200,000 tons of organic matter at the bottom of the gulf (is that any better than 200,000 tons of oil?). Oil from the ground has lots of contaminants like sulfur, what happens to the parts of the oil the bacteria can't digest?

Take a lesson from Star Trek... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312507)

Get rid of money and we get rid of 90% of the worlds problems..

Re:Take a lesson from Star Trek... (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | about 2 years ago | (#41312691)

Yes, because the world's problems are humans and before the concept of money existed, our population was less than 10% of what it is now.

Re:Take a lesson from Star Trek... (1)

readin (838620) | about 2 years ago | (#41313647)

Good point. Get rid of money and 90% of the people will likely die in the resulting wars and famines.

Re:Take a lesson from Star Trek... (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 2 years ago | (#41313745)

Yeah, but you have a bizarre and unsuual threat every week, occasional mysterious changes in the look and feel of everything, constant dire threats to sector 0-0-1, and dramaticly shortened lifespans for people wearing red attire.

To quote Leanord: "I see just one flaw with your plan. This is not Star Trek!".

"40% of the oil and natural gas" (1)

swb (14022) | about 2 years ago | (#41312671)

"40% of the oil and natural gas is still in the gulf" -- is this 40% of the total released quantity of oil AND natural gas combined, 40% of each of oil and natural gas, or some other combination?

What was the proportion of oil:natural gas released? I'd be less worried about natural gas in the ocean than oil, but maybe that's naive (although I've never seen a cleanup working cleaning up natural gas..)

40% gas and crude oil in the water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41312775)

60% in the food chain and coming to a plate near you. "Consumed" does not mean non-toxic.

So are they revising this report.... (2)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 2 years ago | (#41312893)

After the recent tar balls and oil patched brought to shore by Hurricane Isaac....

Bacteria have now produced 114,000 tons of CO2 (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | about 2 years ago | (#41313229)

"bacteria have consumed over 200,000 tons of oil and natural gas"

So, the bacteria have now produced over 114,000 tons of CO2...

As interpreted from "Effect of Environmental Parameters on the Biodegradation of Oil Sludge"
(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC243289/pdf/aem00208-0071.pdf)

Ignore that, it is way wrong (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | about 2 years ago | (#41313247)

Wrong... My fault. It is much, much more... They produce 57% of the theoretical maximum, which is a lot larger thanks to all the oxygen adding up with each carbon atom. Damn, I realized it right after pressing the send button...

COREXIT is the stuff poisoning the coast. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41313427)

Any word on how well the environment is dealing with the tons of caustic solvent used to sink the oil from public view and poison entire communities along the Gulf coast?

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