Researchers from the Univ. of Rochester and Texas A&M Univ. have found that, over a period of five months following the disastrous 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, naturally occurring bacteria that exist in the Gulf of Mexico consumed and removed at least 200,000 tons of oil and natural gas that spewed into the deep Gulf from the ruptured well head.
The researchers analyzed an extensive data set to determine not only how much oil and gas was eaten by bacteria, but also how the characteristics of this feast changed with time.
"A significant amount of the oil and gas that was released was retained within the ocean water more than one-half mile below the sea surface. It appears that the hydrocarbon-eating bacteria did a good job of removing the majority of the material that was retained in these layers," says co-author John Kessler of the Univ. of Rochester.