IMOG 2 Deepwater Horizon

Today’s news comes from a talk by Dave Hollander about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Did you know that only 25% of the oil made it to the sea surface? The extremely high pressure, generated by the oil being 18km below the sea floor, caused the ejected oil to form microscopic particles too small to float to the surface. Instead, a plume of toxic oil formed at 1000m water depth and drifted along the continental margin. This “toxic bathtub ring” killed all seafloor organisms for thousands of square km.
To compound this, oil at the surface was broken up using dispersant and flushed back out to sea by increasing the flow of the Mississippi River. Once out at sea, algae bound the oil droplets together, causing them to sink down as a “flocculant dirty blizzard”. While these processes avoided the politically sensitive issue of oil covering the shoreline and killing large numbers of birds and mammals, the disaster has been moved to the deep sea, where it’s harder to see but also harder to fix, and the effects are still working their way through the system. Fish caught today in the Gulf of Mexico are showing symptoms of lethal oil ingestion, and it could take years for the ecosystem to recover.

IMOG 26, Tenerife(!)

This week I am at the 26th IMOG conference, which is taking place in the cold, wet setting of Tenerife. IMOG, the International Meeting on Organic Geochemistry, is a medium sized conference devoted to both academic biogeosciences, especially molecular studies, and also cutting edge research from the oil industry.
Fact of the day: speleothems (stalactites and stalagmites) contain less than 0.01% organic carbon – they are mostly calcium carbonate of course – but you can dissolve away the minerals and inject this tiny fraction directly into an LCMS in order to measure specific organic molecules, and even calculate their carbon isotope composition!