Date Published:Feb 15 2017
An important aspect of oil spill science is understanding how the compounds within spilled oil, especially toxic components, change with weathering. In this study we follow the evolution of petroleum hydrocarbons, including n-alkanes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and alkylated PAHs, on a Louisiana beach and salt marsh for three years following the Deepwater Horizon spill. Relative to source oil, we report overall depletion of low molecular weight n-alkanes and PAHs in all locations with time. The magnitude of depletion, however, depends on the sampling location, whereby sites with highest wave energy have highest compound depletion. Oiled sediment from an enclosed bay shows high enrichment of high molecular weight PAHs relative to 17α(H),21β(H)-hopane, suggesting the contribution from sources other than the Deepwater Horizon spill, such as fossil fuel burning. This insight into hydrocarbon persistence as a function of hydrography and hydrocarbon source can inform policy and response for future spills.