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Earth Science

Oil Detection Methods Miss Important Class of Chemicals 46

MTorrice writes "For decades, scientists studying oil spills have relied on the same analytical methods when tracking the movement of oil and assessing a spill's environmental impact. But these techniques miss an entire class of compounds that could account for about half of the total oil in some samples, according to research presented last week at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference, in New Orleans. These chemicals could explain the fate of some of the oil released in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident and other spills, the researchers say."
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Oil Detection Methods Miss Important Class of Chemicals

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  • Re:Spoiler (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mapsjanhere ( 1130359 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:08PM (#42743285)
    Not really, but with enough oxygen in it they start decomposing at the temperature of vaporization, producing short chain material that the automatic sample analysis suppresses. If you manually evaluate the samples you can still see it. Problem is that you get highly operator dependent results, and that makes comparing samples difficult. Also, once you've started to oxidize the material, biodegradation isn't far behind. So it's not really an environmental problem but literally an academic one.
  • Re:Oxidized stuff (Score:4, Insightful)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:39PM (#42743705)

    They imply that some of these can kill fish embryos in closed bays and estuaries.

    one study linked unidentified oil chemicals to a spike in fish embryo deaths in San Francisco Bay

    Really? How do they know it wasn't just raw sewage, or industrial chemicals if they didn't even identify the chemical, or even prove it came from the oil spill?

    However, it appears their real complaint is this:

    Reddy says overlooking these chemicals could hinder spill research in several ways, including thwarting scientists’ attempts to account for what happens to oil after a spill. After the Deepwater Horizon spill, government and academic groups could only explain the fate of about 75% of the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico. The oxidized compounds could be a portion of this “missing” oil, Reddy says.

    Its not that the oil is "missed", its just that the oil once degraded to the point that it is not oil anymore is hard for them to measure with current methods, so they can't figure out where it went.

    The main point, is that the oil is gone, degraded, oxidized, etc. The most dangerous (to marine life) part of the spill is gone.
    The extent to which it is gone serves as an indirect measure of what these guys are trying to measure.

    They offer very little in the way of support for their assertion that these chemicals are harmful.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer