Submerged In Oil
Reported September 2010
Monterey, CA (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The massive leak in the gulf is sealed shut, now the focus is on the oil left behind. How much is there left to clean up? That’s the question. Science is helping to figure out just how much is left behind and how dangerous it is.
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Physical oceanographer Erik Reineker at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute took his high-tech robotic submarine into the Gulf of Mexico to find out.
The mission is to use an autonomous underwater vehicle or AUV to help figure out the amount of the oil plumes hidden beneath the surface.
“The key to all oceanographic equipment is a synthetic foam. It’s foam that won’t crush under pressure.” Reineker told Ivanhoe.
Venturing down one mile below the surface, the AUV got within three miles of the spill. “Gulpers” aboard the vessel collected 10 half-gallon water samples as it takes a cross-section through the water. The key instrument? A petroleum detector.
“Down in the gulf, you either have close to zero or the instrument is going all the way off the scale.” Reineker explained.
What’s more, there is also methane gas in the water but the leak from the deepwater horizon drilling rig accident is not the only thing responsible for its presence.
“One thousand barrels a day naturally seeps into the gulf. Which means life has adapted to deal with some petroleum.” Reineker said.
--But can life down there adapt to the 4.9 million barrels that spilled out of this well?
“It’s got to have an amazing effect. Like Valdez, we’ll be dealing with this spill for decades.” Reineker said.
The MBARI AUV will now be used to collect water samples from other parts of the ocean, to get baseline samples used for research and to have in case of another disaster.
The American Geophysical Union and the Materials Research Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Kim Fulton Bennett
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
(831) 775 1835
American Geophysical Union
Washington, DC 20009-1277
Materials Research Society
Warrendale, PA 15086-7573
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