Transience and persistence of natural hydrocarbon seepage in Mississippi Canyon, Gulf of Mexico

TitleTransience and persistence of natural hydrocarbon seepage in Mississippi Canyon, Gulf of Mexico
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsGarcia-Pineda, O, MacDonald, I, Silva, M, Shedd, W, S Asl, D, Schumaker, B
JournalDeep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
KeywordsHOV Alvin (Human Occupied Vehicle)

Analysis of the magnitude of oil discharged from natural hydrocarbon seeps can improve understanding of the carbon cycle and the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) ecosystem. With use of a large archive of remote sensing data, in combination with geophysical and multibeam data, we identified, mapped, and characterized natural hydrocarbon seeps in the Macondo prospect region near the wreck site of the drill-rig Deepwater Horizon (DWH). Satellite image processing and the cluster analysis revealed locations of previously undetected seep zones. Including duplicate detections, a total of 562 individual gas plumes were also observed in multibeam surveys. In total, SAR imagery confirmed 52 oil-producing seep zones in the study area. In almost all cases gas plumes were associated with oil-producing seep zones. The cluster of seeps in the vicinity of lease block MC302 appeared to host the most persistent and prolific oil vents. Oil slicks and gas plumes observed over the DWH site were consistent with discharges of residual oil from the wreckage. In contrast with highly persistent oil seeps observed in the Green Canyon and Garden Banks lease areas, the seeps in the vicinity of Macondo Prospect were intermittent. The difference in the number of seeps and the quantity of surface oil detected in Green Canyon was almost two orders of magnitude greater than in Mississippi Canyon.