Title

Using Stable and Radiocarbon Analyses as a Forensic Tool to Find Evidence of Oil in the Particulates of the Water Column and on the Seafloor Following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date

2018

Keywords

POCsusp, POCsink, sediment, Deepwater Horizon, methane, petrocarbon, isotopes

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-804434-6.00029-X

Abstract

Over 600 million liters of oil and copious amounts of methane were released into the Gulf of Mexico between April 20, 2010 and July 15, 2010. We used stable and radiocarbon analyses as a forensic tool to trace these hydrocarbons from the Deepwater Horizon (DwH) well into suspended particulate organic carbon (POCsusp), sinking particulate organic carbon (POCsink), and sedimentary organic carbon on the seafloor. POCsusp samples were considerably depleted both in δ13C and Δ14C relative to surface production, with δ13C and Δ14C values as low as −37.2‰ and −618‰, respectively. POCsink time series data revealed a modern Δ14C value due to a large diatom bloom in early September 2010, but values became depleted as oil contaminated particles continued to descend in the water column until the end of the year. Sediment cores collected in the vicinity of the DwH wellhead revealed evidence of oil contamination in the surface layer (0–1 cm), as indicated by a depletion in Δ14C values compared to the layers below the surface. In addition to providing evidence of oil contamination using stable and radiocarbon analyses, our study was consistent with the existence of a pathway by which spilled oil was deposited onto the seafloor.

Was this content written or created while at USF?

No

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Using Stable and Radiocarbon Analyses as a Forensic Tool to Find Evidence of Oil in the Particulates of the Water Column and on the Seafloor Following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, in S. Stout & Z. Wang (Eds.), Oil Spill Environmental Forensics Case Studies, Butterworth-Heinemann, p. 639-650

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