An Example Study of the Weathering of Spilled Petroleum in a Tropical Marine Environment: IXTOC-1
Some initial findings that resulted from a research cruise to the site of the IXTOC-1 oil well blowout in summer 1979 are represented. The primary research effort was directed to learning more about the kinds and rates of spilled oil weathering processes in a tropical marine environment. Results showed that petroleum concentrations in the water column were as high as 10,000 ppb near the wellhead but dropped off rapidly to background values of 5 ppb. Chemical evidence for bacterial degradation of this oil was slight. However, separate microbiological experiments showed that the resident community had the capability of oxidizing the oil in the water column in 1 to 10 days. Apparently this did not occur because of nutrient limitation. During the period of observation no “mousse”-like emulsion was found on the surface at the wellhead, but, did form several kilometers down plume from it. This formation apparently occurred as sunlight and microbial activity oxidized the surface oil forming polar compounds. Separate microbiological microcosm and photo-oxidation experiments using fresh IXTOC-1 oil indicated that this oxidation did occur and that the oxidation products from the sunlight and microbial processes were very similar.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1982-01-01
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