Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Deep Ocean O2 Used by Gulf Oil Spill

About 150 million gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf. Estimates vary, but something like 50 to 100 million gallons of that oil are now dispersed into the water. Bacteria are supposed to "break down" that oil. What does that mean?

It means they will oxidize the oil. On average, oil has two hydrogen atoms to one carbon atom. CH2 + 1.5O2 => CO2 + H2O, so consuming 14 grams of oil requires 48 grams of oxygen. So, that means that consuming e.g. 50 million gallons of oil requires 150,000 metric tons of oxygen.

The oxygen concentration of the sea is around 7 mg/kg. So, 150,000 metric tons of oxygen is all the oxygen in 22 cubic kilometers of seawater. 22 cubic kilometers in the Gulf of Mexico is approximately one drop in a 5 gallon bucket.

Bottom line: there is plenty of oxygen, even at depth, to oxidize all the oil spilled.

1 comment:

  1. The oxygen levels of the Gulf of Mexico have been disrupted by other actions though: