Differentiating the roles of photooxidation and biodegradation in the weathering of Light Louisiana Sweet crude oil in surface water from the Deepwater Horizon site.

Abstract:

We determined the contributions of photooxidation and biodegradation to the weathering of Light Louisiana Sweet crude oil by incubating surface water from the Deepwater Horizon site under natural sunlight and temperature conditions. N-alkane biodegradation rate constants were ca. ten-fold higher than the photooxidation rate constants. For the 2–3 ring and 4–5 ring polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), photooxidation rate constants were 0.08–0.98 day−1 and 0.01–0.07 day−1, respectively. The dispersant Corexit enhanced degradation of n-alkanes but not of PAHs. Compared to biodegradation, photooxidation increased transformation of 4–5 ring PAHs by 70% and 3–4 ring alkylated PAHs by 36%. For the first time we observed that sunlight inhibited biodegradation of pristane and phytane, possibly due to inhibition of the bacteria that can degrade branched-alkanes. This study provides quantitative measures of oil degradation under relevant field conditions crucial for understanding and modeling the fate of spilled oil in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Publisher's Version

Last updated on 09/22/2015