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TitleNatural attenuation of spilled crude oil by cold-adapted soil bacterial communities at a decommissioned High Arctic oil well site
AuthorFerguson, D K; Li, C; Jiang, CORCID logo; Chakraborty, A; Grasby, S EORCID logo; Hubert, C R J
SourceScience of the Total Environment vol. 722, 137258, 2020 p. 1-12,
Alt SeriesNatural Resources Canada, Contribution Series 20190541
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf; html
AreaEllesmere Island; Canadian Arctic Islands
Lat/Long WENS -84.3783 -84.3778 79.8514 79.8508
Subjectsenvironmental geology; fossil fuels; soils science; geochemistry; Nature and Environment; Science and Technology; petroleum industry; hydrocarbons; oil; oil wells; oil spills; pollution; bacterial decomposition; soils; biological communities; environmental analysis; environmental impacts; biodegradation; soil samples; gas chromatography; soil geochemistry; Romulus C-42 Well; Rhodanobacter; Alphaproteobacteria; Sphingomonas; Gammaproteobacteria; Biology; Biodiversity; environmental baseline studies; Contaminated sites
Illustrationslocation maps; aerial photographs; schematic diagrams; plots; diagrams; schematic representations; spectra
ProgramGEM2: Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals Western Arctic Sverdrup Basin
ProgramPolar Continental Shelf Program
Released2020 02 29
AbstractRomulus C-42 is a decommissioned oil well on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian High Arctic, and is the northernmost well to have produced oil and gas anywhere in the world. The remote site has been untouched since a crude oil spill in 1972, offering a rare opportunity to examine natural attenuation in Arctic soils >40 years after a pollution event. Bacterial community composition in crude oil contaminated soils was significantly different from adjacent background soils. Two members of the genus Rhodanobacter (Alphaproteobacteria) were found consistently in contaminated soils, whereas two members of the genus Sphingomonas (Gammaproteobacteria) appeared opposite to each other, one consistently within the oil contaminated soil and the other consistently in non-oil contaminated soils. GC of soil hydrocarbon extracts revealed moderate levels of biodegradation relative to the original oil produced in 1972. Despite conditions permissive for bacterial activity (>0 °C) being limited to only a few months each year, natural attenuation by cold adapted soil microbial communities has taken place since the oil spill over 40 years ago. Rhodanobacter and Sphingomonas lineages are associated with contaminated and baseline conditions in this extreme environment, revealing the utility of bacterial diversity measurements for assessing long-term responses of Arctic soils to pollution.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
Romulus C-42, one of many decommissioned oil and gas wells in the Canadian High Arctic, was abandoned following a small crude oil spill in 1972. Soil microbial diversity profiles obtained >40 years later revealed significant differences in oil contaminated soils relative to adjacent pristine background soils, consistent with evidence for moderate biodegradation of spilled crude oil having taken place since 1972. The results indicate that microbial diversity profiling is an effective tool for assessing natural attenuation in remote High Arctic soils with a history of oil pollution.

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