New study found deep sea chemical dispersants ineffective in Deepwater Horizon oil spill

IMAGE: On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, releasing 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico for a total of 87 days, making it the... view more 

Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

MIAMI--A new study of the Deepwater Horizon response showed that massive quantities of chemically engineered dispersants injected at the wellhead--roughly 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) beneath the surface--were unrelated to the formation of the massive deepwater oil plume.

A University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led research team analyzed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the most toxic components of petroleum, based on the BP Gulf Science Data's extensive water chemistry samples taken within a 10-kilometer (6-mile) radius of the blowout site. The results of this analysis demonstrated that substantial amounts of oil continued to surface near the response site, despite 3,000 tons of subsea dispersants injection (or SSDI) -- a new spill response strategy meant to curb the spread of oil and facilitate its degradation.

Dispersants application to manage surface oil spills has been shown to break the oil into small, easily dissolved droplets. However, the Deepwater Horizon was very different in that the oil entered the system at depth. The turbulent energy and pressure at such immense depths not only contributed to the rapid expansion of the spill, but these natural forces helped disperse oil in micro-droplets and render the dispe....

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