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SINGAPORE - Oil prices rose in Asian trade Monday as a major tropical storm churned towards the oil-producing Gulf of Mexico region, analysts said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for August delivery climbed 36 cents to $79.22 a barrel while London's Brent North Sea crude for August rose 36 cents to $
Hasegawa said the market was also eyeing the first major storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which .ed towards the southwestern Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, threatening oil platforms in the area.
Powerful hurricane winds can act like eggbeaters, tearing big pools of oil into smaller globs, which are more palatable to oil-eating microbes, according to Siddhartha Mitra, an organic geochemist at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.
Though oil-munching bacteria are abundant in the Gulf of Mexico, the organisms can't penetrate solid sheets of oil, and so they chew only on the edges of oil slicks.
Breaking oil into smaller pieces allows the bacteria to attack oil globs from all sides, making the microbes "fat and happy," LSU's Overton said.
"Our environment can really handle oil. It's very acclimated. It might take a year or two, but the bacteria will eat [most of the oil] up very, very quickly," Overton said. (See "Nature Fighting Back Against Gulf Oil Spill.")