Macondo oil in northern Gulf of Mexico waters – Part 2: Dispersant-accelerated PAH dissolution in the Deepwater Horizon plume

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Abstract

During the Deepwater Horizon blowout, unprecedented volumes of dispersant were applied both on the surface and at depth. Application at depth was intended to disperse the oil into smaller microdroplets that would increase biodegradation and also reduce the volumes buoyantly rising to the surface, thereby reducing surface exposures, recovery efforts, and potential stranding. In forensically examining 5300 offshore water samples for the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) effort, profiles of deep-plume oil droplets (from filtered water samples) were compared with those also containing dispersant indicators to reveal a previously hypothesized but undocumented, accelerated dissolution of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in the plume samples. We interpret these data in a fate-and-transport context and conclude that dispersant applications were functionally effective at depth.

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Driskell, W. B., & Payne, J. R. (2018). Macondo oil in northern Gulf of Mexico waters – Part 2: Dispersant-accelerated PAH dissolution in the Deepwater Horizon plume. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 129(1), 412–419. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.02.057

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