Here’s where nearly half the oil from Gulf of Mexico spill went

About 2 million of the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil that escaped from the undersea Macondo well following the April 2010 explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig apparently came to rest on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, according to new research. It now covers an area of about 1,235 square miles, possibly migrating near deep-sea coral.

Here’s an excerpt from a story in the Houston Chronicle:

“Our findings suggest that these deposits come from Macondo oil that was first suspended in the deep ocean and then settled to the seafloor without ever reaching the ocean surface,” [UC Santa Barbara microbial geochemist David] Valentine said.

Light, freshly released oil normally is generally not expected to sink, and even dispersed oil is more likely to remain suspended in water.

Valentine described the footprint as a “shadow of the tiny oil droplets that were initially trapped” higher up, in the water above. “Some combination of chemistry, biology and physics ultimately caused those droplets to rain down another 1,000 feet to rest on the seafloor,” he added.