Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 29 Issue 03

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Volume 29, No. 3
Pages 88 - 95


What Happened to All of the Oil?

Uta Passow Robert D. Hetland
Article Abstract

The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 caused an oil spill that was unique in that it originated at great depth and persisted for an extended period of time, resulting in release of a very large quantity of oil and gas into the environment. What happened to all of this oil and gas? This paper briefly discusses the various physical, chemical, and biological processes that affected the fate and distribution of the spilled petrocarbon: some of the spilled oil was directly removed by mitigating measures, some was rapidly biodegraded, and some was deposited on the seafloor. Part of what remained entered food webs or contaminated shorelines. Consolidation of different estimates of the diverse distribution pathways provides a “guesstimate” budget that assesses the fate of the spilled petrocarbon after it partitioned between the deep plume and the sea surface. 


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