Rapid Degradation of Oil in Mesocosm Simulations of Marine Oil Snow Events

Andrew S. Wozniak, Priscilla M. Prem, Wassim Obeid, Derek C. Waggoner, Antonietta Quigg, Chen Xu, Peter H. Santschi, Kathleen A. Schwehr, Patrick G. Hatcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, natural marine snow interacted with oil and dispersants forming marine oil snow (MOS) that sank from the water column to sediments. Mesocosm simulations demonstrate that Macondo surrogate oil incorporates into MOS and can be isolated, extracted, and analyzed via Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR-MS). Up to 47% of the FTICR-MS signal from MOS extracts can be attributed to formulas also found in Macondo surrogate oil demonstrating extensive oil incorporation. Additionally, oxygenation patterns for MOS extracts provide evidence for degraded oil compounds. Formulas having similar double bond equivalents but higher oxygen content (MOS CHO: CHO 2-9 , DBE 2-16 , MOS CHON: CHO 0-7 N 1 , DBE 9-18; Macondo CHO: CHO 1-4 , DBE 2-15 , CHON: CHO 0-3 N 1 , DBE 9-21 ) were found in MOS extracts generating isoabundance distributions similar to those of environmentally aged oil. Such shifts in molecular composition are consistent with the transformation of high DBE oil components, unobservable by FTICR-MS until oxygenation in the mesocosms. Low light conditions and the rapid proliferation of hydrocarbon-degraders observed in parallel studies suggest biological activity as the primary cause of oil degradation. MOS may thus represent an important microenvironment for oil degradation especially during its long transit below the euphotic zone to sediments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3441-3450
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Rapid Degradation of Oil in Mesocosm Simulations of Marine Oil Snow Events'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this