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Methane from BP spill goes missing

Researchers claim bacteria gobbled it all up - and fast

By
2:29pm, January 6, 2011

Methane, the predominant hydrocarbon produced by the BP blowout last year, has all but vanished from Gulf of Mexico waters, a new study reports — presumably eaten up by marine bacteria. That hadn’t been expected to happen for years.

Two-thirds of the hydrocarbons released by the BP accident were forms of natural gas: largely methane, ethane and propane. While Gulf microbes quickly began devouring the larger gas molecules, they initially left tiny methane — which accounted for an estimated 87.5 percent of the gas initially emitted — largely untouched.

Some of the authors of the new paper had reported in the Oct. 8 Science finding almost no microbial breakdown of BP methane in June, about a month and a half into the 83-day gusher.

Rates of biodegradation in subsea plumes, where this gas had been accumulating, “indicated methane

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