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Bacteria left a methane mess after spill

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Study contradicts notion that microbes consumed most of the gas after 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.

When the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon oil well sent some 400,000 tonnes of methane into the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, many scientists and others feared it would linger. So researchers were pleasantly surprised when studies suggested that methane-eating bacteria had consumed nearly all of it by August.

But new evidence suggests an alternate scenario. Research published today in Nature Geoscience1 finds that although these bacteria consumed much of the gas, they slowed down considerably after a few months. In fact, bacteria only consumed roughly half of the methane, according to co-author author Samantha Joye, a microbial biogeochemist and oceanographer at the University of Georgia in Athens.

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