JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi will lead one of eight large research teams participating in a $112.5 million project to learn how the Gulf of Mexico has fared since the 2010 BP oil spill.
(From Caller.com) — Ole Miss is the lead university in a 14-member consortium awarded $20 million over three years to study “Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf.”
Goals for the UM-led study include analyzing remaining effects of the oil spill, predicting how future spills may affect sensitive areas, learning how oil behaves at different depths and comparing data from the BP blowout with that from natural oil seeps.
Other teams will study issues including ways to respond more effectively to future disasters like the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill that cost 11 lives and spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil from the Gulf floor well.
The lead investigator on the UM-led team is Raymond Highsmith, director of Ole Miss’ National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology, a partnership between Ole Miss and USM.
Highsmith studied the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill while at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and said there are major differences between the two disasters.
In contrast to the Gulf disaster, the Exxon Valdez was a surface spill in a confined area that did not contain natural gas.
“The BP spill was perhaps a mile deep, with a combo of crude oil and as much as 40 percent natural gas,” Highsmith said. “We never had a spill like that before.”
He said NIUST scientists already had been studying an ocean canyon just nine miles away before the BP explosion occurred.
The eight team projects are part of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative created with a 10-year, $500 million pledge from BP.
“A program like this in the Gulf of Mexico is something that has not been done before,” said Denis Wiesenburg, vice president of research at USM. “It’s great that BP saw the value of having the university research community engaged in this.”
“The BP spill was a gigantic man-made experiment that scientists could never do, so this is a tremendous opportunity to study real-world conditions that we could never replicate,” Highsmith said.
Other universities in the study with Ole Miss and USM are Georgia, Florida State, Georgia Institute of Technology, Temple, Oregon State, Pennsylvania State, Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, California-Santa Barbara, Texas-Austin and the J. Craig Venter Institute.
USM is also participating in a study headed by Tulane University on “The Science and Technology of Dispersants as Relevant to Deep Sea Oil Releases.”
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