The impact of Deepwater Horizon oil spill on petroleum hydrocarbons in surface waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico

Citation:

Liu Z, Liu J, Gardner WS, Shank CG, Ostromb NE. The impact of Deepwater Horizon oil spill on petroleum hydrocarbons in surface waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography [Internet]. 2014.

Abstract:

This study evaluated impacts of the BP Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill on petroleum hydrocarbons in surface waters of the Louisiana continental shelf in northern Gulf of Mexico. Surface water (~top 5 cm) without visible oil was collected from three cruises in May 2010 during the oil spill, August 2010 after the well was capped, and May 2011 one year after the spill. Concentrations of total dissolved n-alkanes (C9–C35) in surface seawater were more than an order of magnitude higher in May 2010 than August 2010 and May 2011, indicating contamination by the DWH oil spill. This conclusion was further supported by more abundant smaller n-alkanes (C9–C13), together with pristane and phytane, in May than August 2010 samples. In contrast, even carbon-numbered dissolved n-alkanes (C14–C20) dominated the May 2011 samples, and this distribution pattern of dissolved n-alkanes is the first documentation for water samples in the northern Gulf of Mexico. However, this pattern was not observed in May 2011 suspended particles except for Sta. OSS. This decoupling between dissolved and particle compositions suggests that either these even carbon-numbered n-alkanes originated from bacteria rather than algae, or that the alkanes in the shelf were transported from elsewhere. Concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in suspended particles were 5 times higher on average in May 2010 (83–252 ng L−1) than May 2011 (7.2–83 ng L−1), also indicating contamination by the DWH oil spill. Application of a biomarker ratio of 17α(H),21β(H)-30-norhopane over 17α(H),21β(H)-hopane confirmed that suspended particles from at least two stations were contaminated by the DWH oil spill in May 2010. Taken together, these results showed that surface waters of the sampling area in May 2010 were contaminated by the oil spill, but also that rapid weathering and/or physical dilution quickly reduced hydrocarbon levels by August 2010.

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Last updated on 07/21/2015