Natural petroleum seeps release equivalent of eight to 80 Exxon Valdez oil spills

Posted on June 9, 2009 

Natural petroleum seeps release equivalent of eight to 80 Exxon Valdez oil spills

A new study by researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) is the first to quantify the amount of oil residue in seafloor sediments that result from natural petroleum seeps off Santa Barbara, California.

The new study shows the oil content of sediments is highest closest to the seeps and tails off with distance, creating an oil fallout shadow. It estimates the amount of oil in the sediments down current from the seeps to be the equivalent of approximately 8-80 Exxon Valdez oil spills.

The paper is being published in the May 15 issue of Environmental Science & Technology.

“Farwell developed and mapped out our plan for collecting sediment samples from the ocean floor,” said WHOI marine chemist Chris Reddy, referring to lead author Chris Farwell, at the time an undergraduate working with UCSB’s Dave Valentine. “After conducting the analysis of the samples, we were able to make some spectacular findings.”

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