When oil is extracted from the ground, it contains a large amount of methane. Excess methane is usually removed by engineers before the crude oil is refined.
The methane that is gushing from the broken well is dissolving into the seawater. Although methane occurs naturally in sea water, excessive amounts can encourage the growth of microbes. Microbes can deplete water of oxygen needed to support marine life.
“At some locations, we saw depletions of up to 30 percent of oxygen based on its natural concentration in the waters. At other places, we saw no depletion of oxygen in the waters. We need to determine why that is,” said Texas A&M University oceanography professor John Kessler, who is part of the research team.