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Radium Isotope Release from Oil Degradation: Development of an Oil Clock

Implementing Organization

Coastal Carolina University


DWH Project Funding


Known Leveraged Funding


Funding Organization

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI)

Funding Program

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative GoMRI Grant Program


Project Category


Project Actions

Environmental Research

Targeted Resources

Hydrocarbon Seeps and Chemosynthetic Communities

Project Description

This proposal is based on exciting new data demonstrating that as hydrocarbons degrade within a water parcel, radium isotopes are released into the surrounding water. The ultimate goal of this proposal is to use this characteristic to develop an 'oil clock' geochronometer of hydrocarbon residence time in the marine system based on this released radium isotopic signature. The objectives of this proposal include: (1) collect and geochemically characterize discharged hydrocarbons from natural seep vents at Green Canyon lease block 600 (GC-600) to assess the degree of hydrocarbon source homogeneity across a Gulf of Mexico lease block; (2) use these collected hydrocarbons to perform a series of time-course radium release experiments, in which natural and dispersant-influenced degradation processes under conditions simulating deep water and surface hydrocarbon plumes will be used to determine the radium isotopic release signatures; and (3) create and validate a conceptual model of hydrocarbon residence time in the marine environment based on these isotopic release signatures.


Richard Peterson
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