The Oil BP Tried To Hide Has Been Discovered In Thick Layers On the Sea Floor Over An Area of Several Thousand Square Miles

George Washington's picture

Washington’s Blog

BP and the government famously declared that most of the oil had disappeared.

But as I've noted, as much as 98% of the oil is still in the ocean.

I have repeatedly pointed out that BP and the government applied massive amounts of dispersant to the Gulf Oil Spill in an effort to sink and hide the oil. Many others said the same thing.

BP and the government denied this, of course.

But the oil is not remaining hidden.

Indeed, as the Wall Street Journal noted on December 9th:

A university scientist and the federal government say they have found persuasive evidence that oil from the massive Gulf of Mexico spill is settling on the ocean floor.


The new findings, from scientists at the University of South Florida and from a broad government effort, mark the latest indication that environmental damage from the blowout of a BP PLC well could be significant where it's hardest to find: deep under the Gulf's surface.




Scientists who have been on research cruises in the Gulf in recent days report finding layers of residue up to several centimeters thick from what they suspect is BP oil.


The material appears in spots across several thousand square miles of seafloor, they said. In many of those spots, they said, worms and other marine life that crawl along the sediment appear dead, though many organisms that can swim appear healthy.




Tests now have started to link some oil in the sediment to the BP well could add to the amount of money BP ends up paying to compensate for the spill's damage.



The test results also raise questions about the possible downsides of the government's use of chemical dispersants to fight the spill.




Under federal direction, about 1.8 million gallons of dispersants
were sprayed on the spilled oil in an effort to break it up into tiny
droplets that natural ocean microbes could eat up. At the time, officials said the dispersants shouldn't cause oil from the spill to sink to the seafloor. However, more recently, a federal report said dispersants may have helped some spilled oil sink to the sediment.



Scientific teams have reported in recent months finding a strange substance on the Gulf floor, in some cases as far as about 80 miles from BP's ill-fated Macondo well, which blew out in April and spilled an estimated 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf before it was capped.




"The chemical signatures are identical," said Mr. Hollander, who found the contaminated samples in an area of the Gulf floor off the Florida Panhandle. Although it's conceivable the tests could show a false match with the BP oil, "the statistical probability of something like that is unimaginable," Mr. Hollander said.

The federal government also has found oil matching Macondo oil in Gulf sediment, Steve Murawski, a top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist, said in an interview. He declined to disclose how much sediment contamination the government found, or exactly where in the Gulf it was, saying experts still are analyzing the test results.




Sam antha Joye, a University of Georgia oceanographer, also has found what she believes to be evidence of BP oil in Gulf sediment. She is awaiting lab results tracing the chemical fingerprints of sediment samples she took.

On a research cruise in the Gulf that ended Friday, she saw worms that crawl along the Gulf floor "just decimated," she said. But eels and fish, which can swim away, often appeared fine, she said.

The Journal noted on December 18th:

Oil from BP PLC's blown-out well has lodged in the sediment of the Gulf of Mexico at levels that may threaten marine life, according to a federal report released Friday.




There is no practical way to clean up the spilled oil that has settled deep in the Gulf, officials said, adding that microbes in the water could eventually eat it up.

The massive application of dispersants to hide the amount of oil spilled has caused major problems to the Gulf:

  • The use of dispersants prevented clean up of the oil by skimming, by far the easiest method of removing oil from the water
  • Dispersants make the toxins in crude oil more bioavailable to sealife, and scientists have found that applying Corexit to Gulf crude oil releases many times more toxic chemicals into the water column than would be released with crude alone (and see this)
  • Dispersant might have caused some of the chemicals in oil to become airborne (and see this and this)
  • The crude oil which does not become aerosolized sinks under the surface of the ocean, and can delay the recovery of the ecosystem by years or even decades (see the Wall Street Journal article quoted above)

Extend-And-Pretend Will Fail

As I noted
in May - shortly after the spill started - the responses of the
government to the Gulf Oil spill and to the financial crisis are remarkably similar,
as both have focused on covering up the problems, instead of actually
fixing them. Because the financial system was never really reformed,
the next financial shock will send the economy reeling. Because the oil
was never properly cleaned up, the next hurricane will stir up immense
quantities of oil now lying on the sea floor.

is being attempted in both cases, and - in both cases - it will fail,
because nothing has been fixed, and the fundamentals can only remain
hidden for so long.

Moreover, in both cases, the government
used "highly toxic" measures to try to hide the real problems. The
government has used "emergency measures" and virtually all of its
resources to prop up the giant banks instead of using the proven methods
of restructuring insolvent banks and prosecuting the criminals who caused the crisis, which has caused major problems for the real economy.

the government applied close to 2 million gallons of highly toxic
dispersant to hide the amount of oil instead of using it's resources to
deploy tried-and-true clean up methods, which has caused significant problems for the Gulf.

new and potentially bigger crises will take place, because regulation
hasn't been put in place to prevent them. Regulation of the financial
system - including international agreements like Basil III -
have been gutted. And as Time magazine notes:

Congress never managed to pass legislation that would have overhauled drilling safety.

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VeloSpade's picture

Tar sands = Tar babies

Panafrican Funktron Robot's picture

About 10 degrees cooler as far as median temperature in Plymouth, UK, which is in the Gulf current.  35 degrees farenheit on average is substantially cooler than the normal range of 42-46.  Note that this is an important area of agricultural production in the UK, particularly regarding any fruit crops, and any sustain temps below freezing = extreme badness for said crops. 

MilleniumJane's picture

Thank you George for this valuable have picked up the ball where MSM dropped it.  Happy holidays to you and yours. 

notadouche's picture

Anyone find it odd that we were never over saturated by pictures of wild life covered in oil?  No media coverage of much of anything other than the oil coming out of the pipe, once that was stopped, the story at least in the media's eye's appears to be over.  In the past something like this happens and we see disturbing video 24/7.  Not this time.  I wonder why?

GreenSideUp's picture

Obviously it's because no one in the media would want to damage the reputation of the most environmentally friendly president in the history of the world.  

Widowmaker's picture

Everyone seems to think the same corporate algae that is eating the deficit will eat the oil slick and will convert BOTH into bio-fuel.

Maybe the ghost of "things yet to come" will visit the ass-clowns at BP and we'll get a response fitting for an eco system not poisoned for two generations...

Not a fucking chance - bonuses are up, accountability is down.

Arkadaba's picture

Thanks for keeping this in the news GW. I think this is a prime example of what's not being said ala Cog Diss. There has been no mention of how the Gulf or its residents are dealing with the after effects of the oil spill in the MSM for months.

jahbless's picture

Shortly after the decision to use Corexit (banned in UK seas), Hurricane Bonnie showed up.  I mused back then on the Guardian website that the most salient - and tragic - information to come out of this thing will be a chart plotting cancer rates over the next couple of years in the Gulf region.

That dispersant shit is an ecological abomination and it got picked up by Mother Nature and dumped all over unsuspecting residents in the area.

Hate is such a strong word, and I don't like to use it, but it's the closest term I can use to describe the emotion I feel towards Corporatism.


TDoS's picture

People have died as a result of contact with Corexit.  It destroys red bloods cells, and has caused deterioration of people's lung's and esophaguses.


TDoS's picture

GW, I love the work you've done following this.  Also, FloridaOilSpillLaw is an amazing resource for updates.  Unfortunately, most of the Zerohedge audience doesn't care about anything that isn't money (which makes them not much better then the cretins responsible for this disaster) so the comments are chock full of pro-death inanity.

windcatcher's picture

Pathetic isn’t it? The government or Big Oil is not any more prepared to clean up an oil spill before it spreads than they were before the Gulf oil disaster. Their intent has never been to contain and clean up the oil. If another oil disaster happened tomorrow they would use more Corexit to disperse the oil instead of cleaning it up.


Big Oil should be required to file a Gulf oil clean up plan for deep water salvage and surface salvage to contain and control a similar oil disaster.


Like old Scrooge they are to cheap to buy a supertanker like A-Whale and rig it for deep water salvage and station it in the Gulf. The ship could be working today to remove the oil from the water, especially with all the leaks that are reported.


BP and their government lackeys have not responded responsibly to the Gulf oil disaster and should be removed as custodians.

thegr8whorebabylon's picture

Excellent, tar sands and a prefab tailings pond.

Merry Christmas bitchez

Didn't Brits skate on the Thames short centuries ago?

There's a movie with that gulf conveyer belt stopping.  NY, London and Paris flood and freeze to stone in  a few short days.

Armchair Bear's picture

The Day After Tomorrow...

That would be Christmas Day?

Founders Keeper's picture

GW, thank you for keeping up on this issue.

I had a gut feeling back in April or so, that this man-made disaster is one of the major Black Swans.  If not the Black Swan.

Obvious to no one yet, of course.  This Black Swan is still an ugly ducking, too young yet to take flight.  (The darn thing nearly took flight though when BP was days away from bankruptcy, and quietly bailed out by the U.S. government to avoid a cascading financial catastrophe.)

Nevertheless, our pin-feathered friend will eventually fill-out and take flight. To what affect? Who can know. Multi-billion dollar fishing/tourist industry destroyed indefinitely along the gulf coast? BP bankruptcy complete with detonating derivatives, teetering pension-funds suffering stock losses, corp bond losses? Or, Europe suffering generations of semi-arctic weather because the warm air gulf stream current has been altered.

It's just a gut feeling that has not gone away.


GreenSideUp's picture

I've thought much the same thing--either the Black Swan or part of the death by a thousand cuts plan.

gulf breeze's picture

What is amazing is all the work on Pensacola Beach on a daily basis.  There are massive amounts of crews and heavy equipment still operating.

DollarMenu's picture

Thanks GW, you do us all a favor through your diligence on this topic.

Is there anything interesting about Nalco, the Corexit manufacturer,

and it's investors?

Someone has and still is making money out of this,

in spite of fines and clean-up costs.

It would be interesting to see who, and when they took their positions

Best wishes for a restful holiday.

Fishhawk's picture

As I posted many months ago, the oil will circulate in the deep waters of the Gulf for years, eventually settling out in a cold, dark, low-oxygen environment where its decomposition will be greatly slowed.  Thus it will remain in the sediments for many years.  There is a lot of Gulf floor, and even 4 million barrels of oil won't cover much of it, so the impacts will be on a local level.  While a lot of benthic organisms will die from this spill, the affected area is less than 1% of the Gulf; this is not the eco-disaster many are trying to portray it.  Conversely, the sensitive nursery areas of the Louisiana coast were badly damaged, and that will have major consequences on hatch and recruitment levels for all the major sport and commercial fisheries (primarily trout, snapper, shrimp, and redfish) in the Gulf for several years.  Those impacts will total several billion dollars, and will cause serious hardship on the coastal population.  Thus the economic value of the tradeoff 'to disperse, or not to disperse' remains unknown.  We do know that the decision to disperse was made without concern for the ecological effects of covering thousands of miles of Gulf floor with oil; the decision was intended to limit the cleanup costs on the beaches, and the related fines to BP.  As such it is clear evidence that BP and the US 'regulators' are unfit to make such decisions; the inmates are running the asylum.  

Cistercian's picture

 I think BP's interests overruled all other considerations.

  Just about the money...the criminals are running the country, from the Gulf to DC and Wall St and beyond.Sad times.

Jim in MN's picture

OK, cheap math to go along with your logic: 600,000 square miles of Gulf.  1 gallon of oil can coat (as in paint primer) 300 square feet.  1 barrel (35 gallons) can coat 10,500 square feet.  Let's postulate that you don't need to coat the seafloor like primer to contaminate it; maybe it's 10%, maybe just 1% given that oil contamination can be measured in parts per million.  So let's say that at 10% of a 'paint coating' the seafloor is contaminated.  Then a barrel can contaminate 105,000 square feet.

How many square feet in a square mile?  27,878,400.  Thus it takes 265 barrels to 'do in' one square mile.  At that rate, all 4.1 million barrels, if distributed evenly by ROVs with paint rollers or airbrushes (joke) could contaminate 15,469.3 square miles of Gulf, or just 2.5%.

However, consider this: if instead of 10% 'coverage' it only took 1%--a very thin, slimey film of Corexit and oil--you'd have the potential to contaminate a full quarter of the Gulf seafloor.  That is impressive poisoning there.  No doubt the truthiness lies somewhere in between...but just some numbers for perspective.

Atomizer's picture

George Washington, always enjoy your contributions to ZH. I have a question though, please explain how this ties into the following missives?


Law of the Sea Redux

"In fact, our Constitutional form of government is being completely destroyed because buried in the CLEAR Act (HR 3534) there is a provision for a new council to oversee the outer continental shelf- it appears that this Regional Outer Shelf Council will be part of the National Ocean Council. This means that if Congress makes the CLEAR Act into law, then the implementation of the UN Law Of Sea Treaty, as part of the National Ocean Council's agenda, will be "ratified" in a convoluted and stealth manner, in full opposition to the Constitution and its intent."

Trolls like myself are interested in your opinion. Kindly comment. Thanks

frankoo's picture

I remember reading something about the Brits, in the year 2004, crying that their Grandchildren would never see a snowflake, never eat snow ice cream, or know what it was like to play in the snow. All because of Global warming.  Now their up to their assholes in it. I say, old chap,  tiz all bullshit.

VeloSpade's picture

A BP troll/employee must be in here.  Nearly every post junked 1 or more times....  well junk this you fucking oily rotton twat of a shill!

Twindrives's picture

Thank you George for your diligence.  I live on the Gulf Coast and appreciate your articles on the subject.   As for the accomplished liar Barack Obama he's negligent in this entire fiasco and can kiss my ass.  That's right Barack, fuck you!

ThePhysicist's picture

The sedimentary layer is the best place for the oil to end up. It will be covered by additional sedimentation in due time and help form the next round of hydrocarbons.

That the dispersed oil has settled out of the water column and is now on the sea flow is actually great news.

No tin foil hat news here...


oddjob's picture

The best solution would have been to not rain corexit in a genocidal manner and let the oil be skimmed and/or broken down by wave action and sunlight.

George Washington's picture

How long will it take for a layer of sedimentation to be deposited on top of the oil to batten down the hatches?  What happens if a hurricane happens in the meantime?

Clinteastwood's picture

If a hurricane happens, get to higher ground.  In fact, whether or not a hurricane happens, George, you oughtta get to higher ground, if you git my drift.

palmereldritch's picture

Interesting video.  Thanks.

Makes the name British Petroleum seem particularly ironic if this scenario is true...

Rogerwilco's picture

I thought they moved the oil in submarine tankers to a super-secret base in Antarctica where clones of Liberace load it into jumbo jets fitted to disperse it as contrails all over the globe.

Sean7k's picture

Thanks GW for the update. Have a Merry Xmas!

slvrizgold's picture

In 5 years, all the relatives of cancer victims in the gulf should line up all people who were involved in the spraying of the lethal carcinogenic neurotoxin Corexit and MOW THEM DOWN WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.   The executives of the company who manufacture the poison should be drowned in a vat of their poison.

Drag Racer's picture

One group of researchers did try to contact the cleanup crews and sprayers from the Valdez spill to see what they may be in for. Alas they had to drop the research project because they found that the Valdez workers  were all dead allready.

not a joke!!!

slvrizgold's picture

In 5 years, all the relatives of cancer victims in the gulf should line up all people who were involved in the spraying of the lethal carcinogenic neurotoxin Corexit and MOW THEM DOWN WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.   The executives of the company who manufacture the poison should be drowned in a vat of their poison.

Clinteastwood's picture

line up.......and MOW THEM DOWN 

yeah, yeah, yeah, that's it, and televise it live on the food channel!!

now that's extreme prejudice. 

merehuman's picture

will they pass the "sniff test"?

krugergate's picture

Check out Henning kemner on youtube - he produced some great videos on this disaster which seems to have been done on purpose..boys were up to their old tricks - shorting the shit out of the stock - killing thousands - this disaster hasnt even got going yet...wait a few more months

onlooker's picture

I was wondering yesterday about you, GW, and the Gulf reports. thanks for the eupdate.