The New American – “This provides the most complete account yet of what was happening in the hydrocarbon plumes in the deep ocean during the event,” observed Gary Anderson, a microbial ecologist at the National Laboratory of the Department of Energy, located in Berkeley. The “event” was the largest oil spill in history — the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. It is estimated that the total discharge of oil into the Gulf was 4.9 million barrels.
British Petroleum (BP) eventually agreed to pay $18.7 billion in fines, the largest corporate settlement in American history.
The spill was the result of a Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion on April 20, 2010 and fire. The rig was located about 40 miles from the coast of Louisiana, and the explosion killed 11 workers, injuring 17 others.
It took several months to bring the oil leak under control, with some leaking continuing as late as 2012. At the time, there was great concern about how so much oil was going to ever be cleaned up, using the available technology.
But amazingly, the oil virtually disappeared on its own, leading to various explanations. One explanation was that natural causes — oil-eating microbes had done the trick.
Now, because of the work of Anderson and others, the oil-degrading bacteria has been identified, and the explanation has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, under the rather lengthy title, “Simulation of Deepwater Horizon oil plume reveals substrate specialization within a complex community of hydrocarbon-degraders.”…