The explosion on April 20, 2010 at Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in oil and gas rising to the surface and the oil coming ashore in many parts of the Gulf, and in the dispersment of an oil plume 1,500m below the surface of the water. Despite spanning more than 200m in the water column and extending more than 10 km from the wellhead, the dispersed oil plume was gone within weeks after the wellhead was capped – degraded and diluted to undetectable levels. Furthermore, this degradation took place without significant oxygen depletion. Ecogenomics enabled discovery of new and unclassified species of oil-eating bacteria that apparently lives in the deep Gulf where oil seeps are common. The results provide information about the key players and processes involved in degradation of oil, with and without COREXIT, in different impacted environments in The Gulf of Mexico. We are currently applying the same approach to potential deep oil explorations in other deep basins around the world including the Great Australian Bight with the help of the CSIRO.
Hazen TC. 2013. Deepwater Horizon oil spill: A systems biology approach to an ecological disaster. Abstracts Papers of the American Chemical Society 245.