Understanding how the microbes will work and how long they will take will require a better understanding of the amount of crude out there. Such predictions are “a function of size, and we don’t know size,” says microbial geochemist Samantha B. Joye of the University of Georgia. “We can’t begin to make any kind of calculation of potential oxygen demand or anything else.” Over time, that estimated amount has grown from an initial 1,000 barrels of oil per day to as much as 60,000 per day as of mid-June.
Whatever the case, that oil will linger in the environment for a long time. The microbes break down hydrocarbons in “weeks to months to years,” Atlas explains. Nature provides a solution, albeit a slow one.
This article was originally published with the title Biological Breakdown.