180 Forensic Geochemistry Reveals International Ship Dumping as a Source of New Oil Spill in Brazil’s Coastline (Bahia) in Late 2023

Martins L.L., Pereira V.B., Nascimento A.P., Azevedo R.N.A., Oliveira A.H.B., Teixeira C.E.P., Azevedo D.A., da Cruz G.F., Cavalcante R.M., Giarrizzo T. (2024) Environmental Science and Technology, 58 (21), pp. 9328 – 9338,  DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.4c01520

ABSTRACT: In the present study, we applied forensic geochemistry to investigate the origin and fate of spilled oils like tarballs stranded at the beaches of Bahia, in northeastern Brazil, in September 2023, based on their fingerprints. Saturated and aromatic compounds were assessed by gas chromatography, and the oceanic surface circulation patterns were deciphered to determine the geographic origin of the spill. Contamination by petroleum represents an enormous threat to the unique, species-rich ecosystems of the study area. The geochemical fingerprint of the oil spilled in 2023 did not correlate with those of previous events, including the one in 2019, the one in early 2022 in Ceará, and an extensive spill across the Brazilian Northeast in late 2022. However, the fingerprint did correlate with crude oils produced by Middle Eastern countries, most likely Kuwait. The oil of the 2023 spill had a carbonate marine origin from early mature source rocks. These findings, together with the moderate weathering of the 2023 tarballs and the ocean circulation patterns at the time of the event, indicate that the oil was discharged close to the shore of Brazil, to the east or southeast of Salvador, by a tanker on an international route in the South Atlantic.

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