A&M Gets $14.4M Grant for BP Spill Research

A Texas A&M-led team recently received a $14.4 million grant to study petroleum fluids that have erupted in the ocean’s depths.

(From TheEagle.com / by Vimal Patel) — The grant is from a 10-year, $500 million fund set up by BP, the oil company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon spill, to study the 2010 disaster that spilled some five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The money was part of $112.5 million in competitive research grants announced Wednesday to eight teams nationwide.

Researchers say the grant will help industry and government better understand and predict the chemical interactions of petroleum in the deep ocean.

“It also gives students and post-doctoral researchers a chance to work in an area of societal importance and with people who are tops in their field,” said Piers Chapman, the head of A&M’s oceanography department and lead investigator on the grant.

A dozen students are expected be employed during the three-year project, according to a release from A&M.

Industry is increasingly drilling deeper, Chapman said. The BP well, he notes, drilled 6.6 miles beneath the sea floor.

A&M will use computer modeling techniques to better understand the chemical processes as oil and gases bubble up to the surface. The environment’s pressure leads to chemical processes that aren’t fully understood.

“If you subject liquids and gases to high pressure and you suddenly release that pressure, all sorts of weird and wonderful things happen,” Chapman said.

Texas A&M has the responsibility of directing the grant. Chapman will be on a four-person executive committee composed of A&M professors.

“These were the major players in rapid response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill,” said Kate Miller, dean of the College of Geosciences, about the A&M team in a release.

Nine other universities will be part of A&M’s team, including the University of Texas at Austin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.

Chapman said the project may have to be scaled back because it wasn’t funded at the $22 million requested.

The money comes out of BP’s Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.

Chapman said the research is independent from BP and that the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative is a third-party body set up by BP composed of scientists and chaired by Rita Colwell, a former director of the National Science Foundation.

“The wall, as far as we know, is absolute,” Chapman said.

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