Posted by: stiltsville | May 30, 2010

oil-eating microbes

Oil is old stuff. Nature being what it is, certain microbes have evolved to eat it. In fact, there are entire ecosystems of microbes that convert oil to energy.

Unfortunately, these microbes work slower than mechanical skimmers. What a skimmer can remove from the environment in a minute may take weeks to be consumed by microbes. Microbes will eat all the oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico. But it could take hundreds of years.

Microbial action requires oxygen. The microbes eat more oil, faster, where it is warm and oxygen is available, like in marshes. By injecting dispersant at the well head, BP is keeping the oil in the cold, low-oxygen environment 5,000 feet below the surface, where microbial action is slowest.

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