Identifying oil/marine snow associations in mesocosm simulations of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill event using solid-state 13C NMR spectroscopy

Patrick G. Hatcher, Wassim Obeid, Andrew S. Wozniak, Chen Xu, Saijin Zhang, Peter H. Santschi, Antonietta Quigg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Deepwater Horizon oil spill stimulated the release of marine snow made up of dead/living plankton/bacteria and their exopolymeric polysaccharide substances (EPS), termed marine oil snow (MOS), promoting rapid removal of oil from the water column into sediments near the well site. Mesocosm simulations showed that Macondo surrogate oil readily associates with the marine snow. Quantitative solid-state 13C NMR readily distinguishes this oil from naturally formed marine snow and reveals that adding the dispersant Corexit enhances the amount of oil associated with the MOS, thus contributing to rapid removal from the water column. Solvent extraction of MOS removes the oil-derived compounds for analysis by one and two-dimensional GC/MS and evaluation of potential transformations they undergo when associated with the EPS. The results reveal that the oil associated with EPS is subjected to rapid transformation, in a matter of days, presumably by bacteria and fungi associated with EPS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-165
Number of pages7
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes



  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Marine snow
  • NMR
  • Oil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution

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