"Microbes Ate BP Oil Deep-Water Plume: Study"

"A Manhattan-sized plume of oil spewed deep into the Gulf of Mexico by BP's broken Macondo well has been consumed by a newly discovered fast-eating species of microbes, scientists reported on Tuesday.

The micro-organisms were apparently stimulated by the massive oil spill that began in April, and they degraded the hydrocarbons so efficiently that the plume is now undetectable, said Terry Hazen of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

These so-called proteobacteria -- Hazen calls them "bugs" -- have adapted to the cold deep water where the big BP plume was observed and are able to biodegrade hydrocarbons much more quickly than expected, without significantly depleting oxygen as most known oil-depleting bacteria do.

Oxygen is essential to the survival of commercially important fish and shellfish; a seasonal low-oxygen "dead zone" forms most summers in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by farm chemical run-off that flows down the Mississippi River."

Deborah Zabarenko reports for Reuters August 25, 2010.

SEE ALSO:

"Scientists Find Oil-Eating Bacteria Plentiful in Deep Gulf Waters" (New York Times)

"Undersea Oil Plume Vanishes in Gulf, Degraded by Previously Unknown Bug" (Greenwire)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010