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Study identifies Deepwater Horizon debris as likely source of Gulf of Mexico oil sheens
Date:7/16/2013

sts point out that when the Deepwater Horizon rig sank, it was holding tanks containing hundreds of barrels of a mixture of drilling mud and oil. Over time, corrosive seawater can create small holes for oil to slowly escape to the surface. The researchers suspect that the containers on the Deepwater Horizon rig holding entrapped oil may be the source of the recent oil sheen.

"This study shows that drilling mud olefins are a powerful forensic tool to investigate the source of oil sheens," the authors wrote.

In the process of their research, Reddy and Valentine operated with transparency, alerting the government and BP to their research plans. They believe this fostered a collegial relationship that ultimately improved their research. Throughout the effort to find the source of the oil, there was keen interest in the research both by BP and federal agencies; all stakeholders sought to determine the source of the oil, though each required a different level of certainty about the results, and each had different questions to answer. Reddy and Valentine required great certainty in their results before publishing them, but recognized that their preliminary data could be useful to others who could use it to take immediate action with less certainty.

"We had a fruitful exchange and developed a collegial relationship with both BP and the government. Both provided us with data, and in turn we gave them a preview of our findings with no strings attached," said Valentine.

At the end of the day, Reddy said, "This is a good study, but the long lasting impacts of this effort were highlighting that academia can play a useful role during a crisis. We can be unbiased and collaborative without losing our integrity. What is lost on many of our colleagues is that interacting with representatives of the government and BP provided advice and input that improved our research. This is a win-win."


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