Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bacteria devoured methane gas from gulf oil spill, scientists say

Kessler and his colleagues now report in Science that a huge swarm of gas-gobbling bacteria swelled to consume nearly all of the estimated 200,000 tons of methane dumped into the gulf. Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, says he is "not surprised at all" by the voracious appetite of the microbes. Hazen spent four months on the gulf studying the giant plumes of oil and gas that initially spread from the well. "We have basically the same data," he says. In August, Hazen reported that bacteria - including several new-to-science species - were quickly reducing the giant plumes of oil. "The good news is that methanotropes will probably help to deep clean" the gulf by continuing to degrade residual oil and gas, Hazen says. More>