The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster remains the largest single accidental release of oil and gas into the ocean. During the 87-day release, scientists used oceanographic tools to collect wellhead oil and gas samples, interrogate microbial community shifts and activities, and track the chemical composition of dissolved oil in the ocean’s interior. In the decade since the disaster, field and laboratory investigations studied the physics and chemistry of irrupted oil and gas at high pressure and low temperature, the role of chemical dispersants in oil composition and microbial hydrocarbon degradation, and the impact of combined oil, gas and dispersants on the flora and fauna of coastal and deep-sea environments. The multi-faceted, multidisciplinary scientific response to the released oil, gas and dispersants culminated in a better understanding of the environmental factors that influence the short-term and long-term fate and transport of oil in marine settings. In this Review, we summarize the unique aspects of the Deepwater Horizon release and highlight the advances in oil chemistry and microbiology that resulted from novel applications of emerging technologies. We end with an outlook on the applicability of these findings to possible oil releases in future deep-sea drilling locations and newly-opened high-latitude shipping lanes.
The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) disaster was the largest single accidental release of oil and gas to the ocean. Over 87 days, oil, gas and dispersants impacted 11,000 km2 of ocean surface and 2,000 km of coastline.
The application of subsurface dispersants was unique to the DWH disaster. Empirical observations, laboratory data and modelling efforts offer conflicting conclusions as to whether dispersants reduced the sea surface expression of released oil.
The DWH disaster was the first wide-scale environmental application of emerging systems biology tools based on microbial gene analysis. These tools provided unprecedented insights into the identity, structure, growth dynamics, succession and overall response of microbial communities to oil, gas and dispersant release to marine ecosystems.
Advanced analytical chemistry technologies provided novel information regarding source oil composition, biodegradation, photochemical oxidation, water-column processes, accurate measurements of biomarkers and identification of oil weathering products.
The Gulf of Mexico coastline and deep ocean were contaminated with oil, gas and dispersants to differing degrees. In many cases, coastal ecosystems recovered as predicted based on previous oil release studies, whereas, in others, the disaster combined with other stressors to deleterious effect. Examination of the disaster’s impacts on the deep sea, and its ongoing recovery, continue.
Insights from the first decade of DWH-related research underscore the need for integrated analytical platforms and data synthesis to understand the complexities of the environmental responses to oil, gas and dispersant release. The spill science community must be ready to work collaboratively across academia, industry and government during possible future oil releases in the deep sea and high latitudes.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Reddy, C. M. et al. Composition and fate of gas and oil released to the water column during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 20229–20234 (2012).
Kessler, J. D. et al. A persistent oxygen anomaly reveals the fate of spilled methane in the deep Gulf of Mexico. Science 331, 312–315 (2011).
Valentine, D. L. et al. Propane respiration jump-starts microbial response to a deep oil spill. Science 330, 208–211 (2010).
Gros, J. et al. Petroleum dynamics in the sea and influence of subsea dispersant injection during Deepwater Horizon. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 10065–10070 (2017).
Ryerson, T. B. et al. Chemical data quantify Deepwater Horizon hydrocarbon flow rate and environmental distribution. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 20246–20253 (2012).
Drozd, G. T. et al. Modeling comprehensive chemical composition of weathered oil following a marine oil spill to predict ozone and potential secondary aerosol formation and constrain transport pathways. J. Geophys. Res. Ocean 120, 7300–7315 (2015).
MacDonald, I. R. et al. Natural and unnatural oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico. J. Geophys. Res. Ocean. 120, 8364–8380 (2015).
Nixon, Z. et al. Shoreline oiling from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 107, 170–178 (2016).
Passow, U. & Stout, S. A. Character and sedimentation of “lingering” Macondo oil to the deep-sea after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Mar. Chem. 218, 103733 (2020).
Lehr, B., Bristol, S. & Possolo, A. Oil budget calculator (National Incident Command, 2010).
Hazen, T. C. et al. Deep-sea oil plume enriches indigenous oil-degrading bacteria. Science 330, 204–208 (2010).
Joye, S. B., MacDonald, I. R., Leifer, I. & Asper, V. Magnitude and oxidation potential of hydrocarbon gases released from the BP oil well blowout. Nat. Geosci. 4, 160 (2011).
Ryerson, T. B. et al. Atmospheric emissions from the Deepwater Horizon spill constrain air-water partitioning, hydrocarbon fate, and leak rate. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L07803 (2011).
Valentine, D. L. et al. Fallout plume of submerged oil from Deepwater Horizon. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 15906–15911 (2014).
Chanton, J. P. et al. Using natural abundance radiocarbon to trace the flux of petrocarbon to the seafloor following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Environ. Sci. Technol. 49, 847–854 (2014).
Gros, J. et al. First day of an oil spill on the open sea: early mass transfers of hydrocarbons to air and water. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48, 9400–9411 (2014).
Diercks, A. R. et al. Characterization of subsurface polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons at the Deepwater Horizon site. Geophys. Res. Lett. 37, L20602 (2010).
Diercks, A. R. et al. NIUST - Deepwater Horizon oil spill response cruise (IEEE, 2010).
Camilli, R. et al. Tracking hydrocarbon plume transport and biodegradation at Deepwater Horizon. Science 330, 201–204 (2010).
Ryan, J. P. et al. in Monitoring and Modeling the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Record-Breaking Enterprise Vol. 195 (eds Liu, Y., MacFadyen, A., Ji, Z.-G. & Weisberg, R. H.) 63–75 (American Geophysical Union, 2011).
MacDonald, I. R. et al. Asphalt volcanism and chemosynthetic life in the Campeche Knolls, Gulf of Mexico. Science 304, 999–1002 (2004).
Valentine, D. L. et al. Asphalt volcanoes as a potential source of methane to late Pleistocene coastal waters. Nat. Geosci. 3, 345–348 (2010).
Joye, S. B. et al. The anaerobic oxidation of methane and sulfate reduction in sediments from Gulf of Mexico cold seeps. Chem. Geol. 205, 219–238 (2004).
MacDonald, I. R. et al. Natural oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico visible from space. J. Geophys. Res. Ocean 98, 16351–16354 (1993).
Davis, C. S. & Loomis, N. C. NRDA image data processing plan — Holocam: data processing methods (2014).
Camilli, R. et al. Acoustic measurement of the Deepwater Horizon Macondo well flow rate. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 20235–20239 (2012).
Kujawinski, E. B. et al. Fate of dispersants associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45, 1298–1306 (2011).
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The use of dispersants in marine oil spill response (National Academies Press, 2019).
Davis, C. S., Gallager, S. M., Berman, M. S., Haury, L. R. & Strickler, J. R. The Video Plankton Recorder (VPR): design and initial results. Arch. Hydrobiol. Beih. 36, 67–81 (1992).
Davis, C. S., Thwaites, F., Gallager, S. M. & Hu, Q. A three-axis fast-tow digital video plankton recorder for rapid surveys of plankton taxa and hydrography. Limnol. Oceanogr. Meth. 3, 59–74 (2005).
Loomis, N. C. Computational Imaging and Automated Identification for Aqueous Environments. Thesis, MIT–WHOI (2011).
Li, Z. et al. Technical reports for Deepwater Horizon water column injury assessment: oil particle data from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (FE_TR.41) (RPS ASA, 2015).
Paris, C. B. et al. Evolution of the Macondo well blowout: simulating the effects of the circulation and synthetic dispersants on the subsea oil transport. Environ. Sci. Technol. 46, 13293–13302 (2012).
Paris, C. B. et al. BP Gulf science data reveals ineffectual subsea dispersant injection for the Macondo blowout. Front. Mar. Sci. 5, 389 (2018).
Malone, K., Pesch, S., Schlüter, M. & Krause, D. Oil droplet size distributions in deep-sea blowouts: influence of pressure and dissolved gases. Environ. Sci. Technol. 52, 6326–6333 (2018).
Malone, K. et al. in Deep Oil Spills: Facts, Fate and Effects (eds Murawski, S. A. et al.) 43–64 (Springer, 2020).
de Gouw, J. A. et al. Organic aerosol formation downwind from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Science 331, 1295–1299 (2011).
US National Research Council. Oil spill dispersants: efficacy and effects (National Academies Press, 2005).
John, V., Arnosti, C., Field, J., Kujawinski, E. B. & McCormick, A. The role of dispersants in oil spill remediation: fundamental concepts, rationale for use, fate and transport issues. Oceanography 29, 108–117 (2016).
Baelum, J. et al. Deep-sea bacteria enriched by oil and dispersant from the Deepwater Horizon spill. Environ. Microbiol. 14, 2405–2416 (2012).
Campo, P., Venosa, A. D. & Suidan, M. T. Biodegradability of Corexit 9500 and dispersed South Louisiana crude oil at 5 and 25 °C. Environ. Sci. Technol. 47, 1960–1967 (2013).
Choyke, S. & Ferguson, P. L. Molecular characterization of nonionic surfactant components of the Corexit 9500 oil spill dispersant by high-resolution mass spectrometry. Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 33, 1683–1694 (2019).
Place, B. J. et al. Trace analysis of surfactants in Corexit oil dispersant formulations and seawater. Deep Sea Res. II 129, 273–281 (2016).
Choyke, S. Environmental Fate of Chemical Dispersant Corexit®9500 in Seawater by High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry. Thesis, Duke Univ. (2019).
Tulis, D. & Stanislaus, M. Interview to Commission staff, October 1, 2010. Deep water: the Gulf oil disaster and the future of offshore drilling — Report to the President (BP Oil Spill Commission Report) (GPO-OIL Commission, 2010).
Boufadel, M. C. et al. Was the Deepwater Horizon well discharge churn flow? Implications on the estimation of the oil discharge and droplet size distribution. Geophys. Res. Lett. 45, 2396–2403 (2018).
Edwards, B. R. et al. Rapid microbial respiration of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill in offshore surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Environ. Res. Lett. 6, 035301 (2011).
Ward, C. P. et al. Partial photochemical oxidation was a dominant fate of Deepwater Horizon surface oil. Environ. Sci. Technol. 52, 1797–1805 (2018).
Yang, T. et al. Pulsed blooms and persistent oil-degrading bacterial populations in the water column during and after the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Deep Sea Res. II 129, 282–291 (2016).
Dombrowski, N. et al. Reconstructing metabolic pathways of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Nat. Microbiol. 1, 1–7 (2016).
Gutierrez, T. et al. Hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria enriched by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill identified by cultivation and DNA-SIP. ISME J. 7, 2091–2104 (2013).
King, G. M., Smith, C. B., Tolar, B. & Hollibaugh, J. T. Analysis of composition and structure of coastal to mesopelagic bacterioplankton communities in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Front. Microbiol. 3, 438 (2013).
King, G. M., Kostka, J. E., Hazen, T. C. & Sobecky, P. A. Microbial responses to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: from coastal wetlands to the deep sea. Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci. 7, 377–401 (2015).
Payne, J. R. & Driskell, W. B. Water-column measurements and observations from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill natural resource damage assessment. Int. Oil Spill Conf. Proc. 2017, 3071–3090 (2017).
Valentine, D. L. et al. Dynamic autoinoculation and the microbial ecology of a deep water hydrocarbon irruption. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 20286–20291 (2012).
Dubinsky, E. A. et al. Succession of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Environ. Sci. Technol. 47, 10860–10867 (2013).
Joye, S. B. & Kostka, J. E. Microbial genomics of the global ocean system. ESSOAr https://doi.org/10.1002/essoar.10502548.1 (2020).
Mason, O. U. et al. Metagenome, metatranscriptome and single-cell sequencing reveal microbial response to Deepwater Horizon oil spill. ISME J. 6, 1715–1727 (2012).
Redmond, M. C. & Valentine, D. L. Natural gas and temperature structured a microbial community response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 20292–20297 (2012).
Rubin-Blum, M. et al. Short-chain alkanes fuel mussel and sponge Cycloclasticus symbionts from deep-sea gas and oil seeps. Nat. Microbiol. 2, 17093 (2017).
Rivers, A. R. et al. Transcriptional response of bathypelagic marine bacterioplankton to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. ISME J. 7, 2315–2329 (2013).
Crill, P. M. & Martens, C. S. Methane Production from Bicarbonate and Acetate in an Anoxic Marine Sediment. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 50, 2089–2097 (1986).
Crespo-Medina, M. et al. The rise and fall of methanotrophy following a deepwater oil-well blowout. Nat. Geosci. 7, 423–427 (2014).
Kleindienst, S. et al. Diverse, rare microbial taxa responded to the Deepwater Horizon deep-sea hydrocarbon plume. ISME J. 10, 400–415 (2016).
Brakstad, O. G., Almås, I. K. & Krause, D. F. Biotransformation of natural gas and oil compounds associated with marine oil discharges. Chemosphere 182, 555–558 (2017).
Kim, S. J. et al. Dynamic response of Mycobacterium vanbaalenii PYR-1 to BP Deepwater Horizon crude oil. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 81, 4263–4276 (2015).
Kleindienst, S. et al. Chemical dispersants can suppress the activity of natural oil-degrading microorganisms. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, 14900–14905 (2015).
Bagby, S. C., Reddy, C. M., Aeppli, C., Fisher, G. B. & Valentine, D. L. Persistence and biodegradation of oil at the ocean floor following Deepwater Horizon. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, E9–E18 (2017).
Chakraborty, R., Borglin, S. E., Dubinsky, E. A., Andersen, G. L. & Hazen, T. C. Microbial response to the MC-252 oil and Corexit 9500 in the Gulf of Mexico. Front. Microbiol. 3, 357 (2012).
Overholt, W. A. et al. Hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria exhibit a species-specific response to dispersed oil while moderating ecotoxicity. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 82, 518–527 (2016).
Bookstaver, M., Bose, A. & Tripathi, A. Interaction of Alcanivorax borkumensis with a surfactant decorated oil-water interface. Langmuir 31, 5875–5881 (2015).
Hamdan, L. J. & Fulmer, P. A. Effects of Corexit EC9500A on bacteria from a beach oiled by the Deepwater Horizon spill. Aquat. Microb. Ecol. 63, 101–109 (2011).
Sun, X. et al. Dispersant enhances hydrocarbon degradation and alters the structure of metabolically active microbial communities in shallow seawater from the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Front. Microbiol. 10, 2387 (2019).
Techtmann, S. M. et al. Corexit 9500 enhances oil biodegradation and changes active bacterial community structure of oil-enriched microcosms. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 83, e03462–16 (2017).
McFarlin, K. M., Prince, R. C., Perkins, R. & Leigh, M. B. Biodegradation of dispersed oil in Arctic seawater at −1 °C. PLoS One 9, e84297 (2014).
Prince, R. C. et al. The primary biodegradation of dispersed crude oil in the sea. Chemosphere 90, 521–526 (2013).
Zahed, M. A. et al. Kinetic modeling and half life study on bioremediation of crude oil dispersed by Corexit 9500. J. Hazard. Mater. 185, 1027–1031 (2011).
Tremblay, J. et al. Chemical dispersants enhance the activity of oil- and gas condensate-degrading marine bacteria. ISME J. 11, 2793–2808 (2017).
Tremblay, J. et al. Metagenomic and metatranscriptomic responses of natural oil degrading bacteria in the presence of dispersants. Environ. Microbiol. 21, 2307–2319 (2019).
Kleindienst, S., Paul, J. H. & Joye, S. B. Using dispersants after oil spills: Impacts on the composition and activity of microbial communities. Nat. Rev. Microbiol. 13, 388–396 (2015).
Ruddy, B. M. et al. Targeted petroleomics: analytical investigation of Macondo well oil oxidation products from Pensacola Beach. Energy Fuels 28, 4043–4050 (2014).
Stout, S. A., Payne, J. R., Emsbo-Mattingly, S. D. & Baker, G. Weathering of field-collected floating and stranded Macondo oils during and shortly after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 105, 7–22 (2016).
Payne, J. R. Petroleum Spills in the Marine Environment: The Chemistry and Formation of Water-in-oil Emulsions and Tar Balls 2nd edn (CRC Press, 2018).
Chen, H. et al. 4 years after the Deepwater Horizon spill: molecular transformation of Macondo Well oil in Louisiana salt marsh sediments revealed by FT-ICR mass spectrometry. Environ. Sci. Technol. 50, 9061–9069 (2016).
Arey, J. S., Nelson, R. K., Plata, D. L. & Reddy, C. M. Disentangling oil weathering using GC×GC. 2. Mass transfer calculations. Environ. Sci. Technol. 41, 5747–5755 (2007).
Stanford, L. A. et al. Identification of water-soluble heavy crude oil organic-acids, bases, and neutrals by electrospray ionization and field desorption ioniization Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry. Environ. Sci. Technol. 41, 2696–2702 (2007).
Wolfe, D. et al. The fate of the oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez. Environ. Sci. Technol. 28, 560A–568A (1994).
Arey, J. S., Nelson, R. K. & Reddy, C. M. Disentangling oil weathering using GC×GC. 1. Chromatogram analysis. Environ. Sci. Technol. 41, 5738–5746 (2007).
Payne, J. R. & Driskell, W. B. Macondo oil in northern Gulf of Mexico waters – part 1: assessments and forensic methods for Deepwater Horizon offshore water samples. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 129, 399–411 (2018).
Lewan, M. D. et al. Asphaltene content and composition as a measure of Deepwater Horizon oil spill losses within the first 80 days. Org. Geochem. 75, 54–60 (2014).
Daling, P. S. et al. Surface weathering and dispersibility of MC252 crude oil. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 87, 300–310 (2014).
Ward, C. P., Armstrong, C. J., Conmy, R. N., French-McCay, D. P. & Reddy, C. M. Photochemical oxidation of oil reduced the effectiveness of aerial dispersants applied in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 5, 226–231 (2018).
Payne, J. R. & Driskell, W. B. in Standard Handbook Oil Spill Environmental Forensics Ch. 22 (eds Stout, S. A. & Wang, Z.) 983–1014 (Academic Press, 2016).
Ray, P. Z., Chen, H., Podgorski, D. C., McKenna, A. M. & Tarr, M. A. Sunlight creates oxygenated species in water-soluble fractions of Deepwater Horizon oil. J. Hazard. Mater. 280, 636–643 (2014).
King, S. M., Leaf, P. A., Olson, A. C., Ray, P. Z. & Tarr, M. A. Photolytic and photocatalytic degradation of surface oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill. Chemosphere 95, 415–422 (2013).
Prince, R. C. et al. The roles of photooxidation and biodegradation in long-term weathering of crude and heavy fuel oils. Spill Sci. Technol. Bull. 8, 145–156 (2003).
Thingstad, T. F. & Bengerud, B. The formation of “chocolate mousse” from Statfjord crude oil and seawater. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 14, 214–216 (1983).
Radović, J. R. et al. Assessment of photochemical processes in marine oil spill fingerprinting. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 79, 268–277 (2014).
Bacosa, H. P., Erdner, D. L. & Liu, Z. Differentiating the roles of photooxidation and biodegradation in the weathering of Light Louisiana Sweet crude oil in surface water from the Deepwater Horizon site. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 95, 265–272 (2015).
Fingas, M. F. & Fieldhouse, B. Studies of the formation process of water-in-oil emulsions. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 47, 369–396 (2003).
Aeppli, C. et al. Oil weathering after the Deepwater Horizon disaster led to the formation of oxygenated residues. Environ. Sci. Technol. 46, 8799–8807 (2012).
Niles, S. F. et al. Molecular-level characterization of oil-soluble ketone/ aldehyde photo-oxidation products by Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry reveals similarity between microcosm and field samples. Environ. Sci. Technol. 53, 6887–6894 (2019).
Vaughan, P. P. et al. Photochemical changes in water accommodated fractions of MC252 and surrogate oil created during solar exposure as determined by FT-ICR MS. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 104, 262–268 (2016).
Zito, P. et al. Sunlight-induced molecular progression of oil into oxidized oil soluble species, interfacial material and dissolved organic matter. Energy Fuels https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.energyfuels.9b04408 (2020).
Hall, G. J. et al. Oxygenated weathering products of Deepwater Horizon oil come from surprising precursors. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 75, 140–149 (2013).
Ward, C. P. et al. Oxygen isotopes (δ18O) trace photochemical hydrocarbon oxidation at the sea surface. Geophys. Res. Lett. 46, 6745–6754 (2019).
McKenna, A. M. et al. Expansion of the analytical window for oil spill characterization by ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry: beyond gas chromatography. Environ. Sci. Technol. 47, 7530–7539 (2013).
Zito, P. et al. Molecular-level composition and acute toxicity of photosolubilized petrogenic carbon. Environ. Sci. Technol. 53, 8235–8243 (2019).
Gros, J., Reddy, C. M., Nelson, R. K., Socolofsky, S. A. & Arey, J. S. Gas-liquid-water partitioning and fluid properties of petroleum mixtures under pressure: implications for deep-sea blowouts. Environ. Sci. Technol. 50, 7397–7408 (2016).
Aeppli, C., Nelson, R. K., Radovic, J. R., Carmichael, C. A. & Reddy, C. M. Recalcitrance and degradation of petroleum biomarkers in Deepwater Horizon oil upon abiotic and biotic natural weathering. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48, 6726–6734 (2014).
Gros, J. et al. Resolving biodegradation patterns of persistent saturated hydrocarbons in weathered oil samples from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48, 1628–1637 (2014).
Nelson, R. K. et al. in Standard Handbook Oil Spill Environmental Forensics Ch. 8 (eds Stout, S. A. & Wang, Z.) 399–448 (Elsevier, 2016).
Driskell, W. B. & Payne, J. R. Macondo oil in northern Gulf of Mexico waters - Part 2: dispersant-accelerated PAH dissolution in the Deepwater Horizon plume. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 129, 412–419 (2018).
Turner, R. E., Overton, E. B., Meyer, B. M., Miles, M. S. & Hooper-Bui, L. Changes in the concentration and relative abundance of alkanes and PAHs from the Deepwater Horizon oiling of coastal marshes. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 86, 291–297 (2014).
DeMello, J. A. et al. Biodegradation and environmental behavior of biodiesel mixtures in the sea: an initial study. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 54, 894–904 (2007).
Frysinger, G. S., Gaines, R. B. & Reddy, C. M. GC×GC–a new analytical tool for environmental forensics. Environ. Forensics 3, 27–34 (2002).
Stout, S. A., Payne, J. R., Ricker, R. W., Baker, G. & Lewis, C. Macondo oil in deep-sea sediments: part 2 - distribution and distinction from background and natural oil seeps. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 111, 381–401 (2016).
Stout, S. A. & Payne, J. R. Macondo oil in deep-sea sediments: part 1 - sub-sea weathering of oil deposited on the seafloor. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 111, 365–380 (2016).
Aeppli, C. et al. How persistent and bioavailable are oxygenated Deepwater Horizon oil transformation products? Environ. Sci. Technol. 52, 7250–7258 (2018).
White, H. K. et al. Long-term weathering and continued oxidation of oil residues from the Deepwater Horizon spill. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 113, 380–386 (2016).
Montagna, P. A. et al. Deep-sea benthic footprint of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. PLoS One 8, e70540 (2013).
Fisher, C. R. et al. Coral communities as indicators of ecosystem-level impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Bioscience 64, 796–807 (2014).
Pasamontes, A. et al. Noninvasive respiratory metabolite analysis associated with clinical disease in cetaceans: a Deepwater Horizon oil spill study. Environ. Sci. Technol. 51, 5737–5746 (2017).
Whitehead, A. et al. Genomic and physiological footprint of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on resident marsh fishes. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 20298–20302 (2012).
Incardona, J. P. et al. Deepwater Horizon crude oil impacts the developing hearts of large predatory pelagic fish. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, E1510–E1518 (2014).
US National Research Council. Oil in the Sea III: Inputs, Fates, and Effects (National Academies Press, 2003).
Mendelssohn, I. A. et al. Oil impacts on coastal wetlands: implications for the Mississippi River Delta ecosystem after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BioScience 62, 562–574 (2012).
Silliman, B. R. et al. Degradation and resilience in Louisiana salt marshes after the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 11234–11239 (2012).
Rabalais, N. N. & Turner, R. E. Effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on coastal marshes and associated organisms. Oceanography 29, 150–159 (2016).
Clement, T. P., John, G. F. & Yin, F. in Oil Spill Science and Technology 2nd edn (ed. Fingas, M.) 851–888 (Elsevier, 2017).
Kostka, J. E. et al. Hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria and the bacterial community response in Gulf of Mexico beach sands impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 77, 7962–7974 (2011).
Karthikeyan, S. et al. “Candidatus Macondimonas diazotrophica”, a novel gammaproteobacterial genus dominating crude-oil-contaminated coastal sediments. ISME J. 13, 2129–2134 (2019).
Michel, J. et al. Three years of shoreline cleanup assessment technique (SCAT) for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Gulf of Mexico, USA. Int. Oil Spill Proc. 2014, 1251–1266 (2014).
Morrison, A. E., Dhoonmoon, C. & White, H. K. Chemical characterization of natural and anthropogenic-derived oil residues on Gulf of Mexico beaches. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 137, 501–508 (2018).
Elango, V., Urbano, M., Lemelle, K. R. & Pardue, J. H. Biodegradation of MC252 oil in oil: sand aggregates in a coastal headland beach environment. Front. Microbiol. 5, 161 (2014).
Tao, Z., Bullard, S. & Arias, C. High numbers of Vibrio vulnificus in tar balls collected from oiled areas of the north-central Gulf of Mexico following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. EcoHealth 8, 507–511 (2011).
Fisher, C. R. et al. Footprint of Deepwater Horizon blowout impact to deep-water coral communities. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 11744–11749 (2014).
Vonk, S. M., Hollander, D. J. & Murk, A. J. Was the extreme and wide-spread marine oil-snow sedimentation and fluocculent accumulation (MOSSFA) event during the Deepwater Horizon blow-out unique? Mar. Pollut. Bull. 100, 5–12 (2015).
Kinner, N. E., Belden, L. & Kinner, P. Unexpected sink for Deepwater Horizon oil may influence future spill response. Eos Trans. AGU 95, 176 (2014).
Passow, U., Ziervogel, K., Asper, V. & Diercks, A. R. Marine snow formation in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Environ. Res. Lett. 7, 035301 (2012).
Fu, J., Gong, Y., Zhao, X., O”Reilly, S. E. & Zhao, D. Effects of oil and dispersant on formation of marine oil snow and transport of oil hydrocarbons. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48, 14392–14399 (2014).
Doyle, S. M. et al. Rapid formation of microbe-oil aggregates and changes in community composition in coastal surface water following expsure to oil and the dispersant Corexit. Front. Microbiol. 9, 689 (2018).
Quigg, A. et al. The role of microbial exopolymers in determining the fate of oil and chemical dispersants in the ocean. Limnol. Oceanogr. Lett. 1, 3–26 (2016).
Schwing, P. T. et al. Constraining the spatial extent of marine oil snow sedimentation and flocculent accumulation following the Deepwater Horizon event using an excess 210Pb flux approach. Environ. Sci. Technol. 51, 5962–5968 (2017).
Mason, O. U. et al. Metagenomics reveals sediment microbial community response to Deepwater Horizon oil spill. ISME J. 8, 1464–1475 (2014).
Kimes, N. E. et al. Metagenomic analysis and metabolite profiling of deep-sea sediments from the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Front. Microbiol. 4, 50 (2013).
van Eenennaam, J. S. et al. Marine snow increases the adverse effects of oil on benthic invertebrates. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 126, 339–348 (2018).
Schwing, P. T. et al. Tracing the incorporation of carbon into benthic foaminiferal calcite following the Deepwater Horizon event. Environ. Pollut. 237, 424–429 (2018).
Schwing, P. T. et al. A decline in benthic foraminifera following the Deepwater Horizon event in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. PLoS One 10, e0120565 (2015).
White, A. E., Watkins-Brandt, K. S., Engle, M. A., Burkhardt, B. & Paytan, A. Characterization of the rate and temperature sensitivities of bacterial remineralization of dissolved organic phosphorus compounds by natural populations. Front. Microbiol. 2, 276 (2012).
White, H. K. et al. Long-term persistence of dispersants following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 1, 295–299 (2014).
Hsing, P.-Y. et al. Evidence of lasting impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on a deep Gulf of Mexico coral community. Elem. Sci. Anth. 1, 000012 (2013).
Girard, F., Fu, B. & Fisher, C. R. Mutualistic symbiosis with ophiuroids limited the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on deep-sea octcorals. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 549, 89–98 (2016).
McClain, C. R., Nunnally, C. & Benfield, M. C. Persistent and substantial impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on deep-sea megafauna. R. Soc. Open. Sci. 6, 191164 (2019).
French-McCay, D. P. et al. in Oil Spill Environmental Forensics Case Studies Ch. 33 (eds Stout, S. A. & Wang, Z.) 683–735 (Elsevier, 2018).
Murawski, S. et al. (eds) Deep Oil Spills: Facts, Fate and Effects (Springer, 2020).
Schreiber, L. et al. Potential for microbially medaited natural attenuation of diluted bitumen on the coast of British Columbia (Canada). Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 85, e00086–19 (2019).
Incardona, J. P. et al. Unexpectedly high mortality in Pacific herring embryos exposed to the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, E51–E58 (2012).
Liu, Y. et al. Multi-omics insights into the microbial degradation of seawater-soluble crude oil components. Preprint at EarthArXiv https://eartharxiv.org/xmv7e/ (2019).
Wang, W., Cai, B. & Shao, Z. Oil degradation and biosurfactant production by the deep sea bacterium Dietzia maris As-13-3. Front. Microbiol. 5, 711 (2014).
Ribicic, D. et al. Oil type and temperature dependent biodegradation dynamics: Combining chemical and microbial community data through multivariate analysis. BMC Microbiol. 18, 83 (2018).
Karthikeyan, S. Microbes, Oil Spills and Beyond: Using Microbes to Predict the Impact of Oil Spills. Thesis, Georgia Inst. Technol. (2019).
Mease, L. A. et al. Designing a solution to enable agency-academic scientific collaboration for disasters. Ecol. Soc. 22, 18 (2017).
White, H. K., Conmy, R., McDonald, I. R. & Reddy, C. M. Methods of oil detection in response to the deepwater horizon oil spill. Oceanography 29, 76–87 (2016).
The authors thank DWH-related funding for establishing collaborations and conversations that enabled this manuscript (the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to E.B.K., R.P.R., C.M.R. and H.K.W.; a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award to H.K.W.; an Early Career Research Fellowship and a Collaborators Grant from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program to JCT; the National Science Foundation to E.B.K. (OCE-1045811), CMR (OCE-1634478 and OCE-1756242), and DLV (OCE-1756947 and OCE-1635562)). Work performed at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory ICR User Facility is supported by the National Science Foundation Division of Chemistry through Cooperative Agreement DMR-1644779, and the State of Florida. The authors thank their research groups and collaborators for spirited discussions and constructive comments on the paper, and Dr Christoph Aeppli for constructive discussions and assistance with conceptualization of figures.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information
Nature Reviews Earth & Environment thanks Jonas Gros, Samantha Joye, and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Chemical mixtures used during oil spill response to break up and decrease the size of oil slicks or oil droplets so that they more easily mix with water.
A chemical compound that has both hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties.
A chemical modification reaction resulting from the absorption of light in the presence of oxygen.
The study of the genes (DNA) present in a mixed community, which provides an assessment of metabolic potential in that community.
The study of the transcripts (RNA) present in a community, which provides a snapshot of the genes being expressed at the time of sampling.
- Stable isotope probing
(SIP). A technique to trace the microbial consumption of a substrate through the examination of the stable isotopic composition of the substrate and the resulting biomass of the consumer.
Masses of loosely-associated particles formed from the aggregation of minerals and organic particles suspended in water.
- Saturated hydrocarbons
Chemical compounds that are comprised of carbon and hydrogen (hydrocarbons) in which all carbon–carbon bonds are single bonds.
A multistep microbial process that reduces nitrate to molecular nitrogen.
About this article
Cite this article
Kujawinski, E.B., Reddy, C.M., Rodgers, R.P. et al. The first decade of scientific insights from the Deepwater Horizon oil release. Nat Rev Earth Environ 1, 237–250 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-020-0046-x
Molecular Composition of Photooxidation Products Derived from Sulfur-Containing Compounds Isolated from Petroleum Samples
Energy & Fuels (2020)
Beyond Thresholds: A Holistic Approach to Impact Assessment Is Needed to Enable Accurate Predictions of Environmental Risk from Oil Spills
Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management (2020)