Methane Gas, Methane Hydrate & Methane Clathrate Formations and Behavior
There has been a spate of articles recently throughout the MSM and alternative media depicting the methane gas predicament associated with the BP Gulf Oil Spill. Many of these perspectives portray an alarming state of affairs concerning extremely high concentrations of methane that have accumulated in numerous areas in the Gulf of Mexico. The two primary issues of concern are the methane effects in the aquatic environment and the methane gas accumulations in the atmosphere above the Gulf and within contiguous land masses. In regard to the latter, the weather patterns will reign supreme. Once methane rises above the surface of the Gulf, where it goes, how it accumulates and what its toxic effects on life will be, is going to be dictated to a great extent by the weather.
“How’s the weather down there?” When we ask each other this question, aren’t we really asking, “How are the elements (elementals) treating us?” Well this question will never be more important to the residents rimming the Gulf of Mexico as we gear up for a long, hot, deep south summer with its likely share of hurricanes, tropical storms and depressions. Which, by the way, can be a good or bad thing for “natural” oil spill remediation depending on a numerous factors and circumstances.
Back to the methane issue and the volumes of gas that are currently pouring into the Gulf by way of the gushing well, as well as the many leaks and seeps, cracks and fissures, which have provided entry into the water from a growing area around the wellhead. Some who are privy to authoritative info have pointed directly to a large gash perhaps caused by the Deepwater Horizon, as well as other smaller gashes, which have opened up in the seafloor throughout the area since the wellhead first blew. Clearly, the topography of the Gulf seafloor has experienced some major changes in the wake of the sinking of the mammoth Deepwater Horizon oil and gas platform. Many revelations have emerged about what really goes on in the process of drilling, which all point directly to a much more conducive environment being created for methane releases from different sources and mechanisms.
The current flow of oil out of the riser is approximately 30% of the total volume of outflow. Much of the remaining composition is methane, some of which may be burned off by the flames which have appeared on various live feeds. Some of this methane dissolves in the sea water, whereas much of it rises to the surface of the Gulf and enters the atmosphere. The measurements taken by those monitoring the air quality and composition in and around the Gulf of Mexico have confirmed that we do see an inordinate degree of methane concentrations where it ought not to be. This substantiated data does beg for an analysis of the different sources from which methane emerges.
Most of the leaks and seeps that have appeared since April 20th are the result of the venting of the enormous pressures of this very deep, high compression well. Various experts in the Oil & Gas Exploration and Drilling Industry have loosely speculated this pressure to be as high as 50,000 to 60,000 psi and higher very deep in the prospect with ranges of 8,000 to 12,000 psi within the current well system, which would explain much of the erratic behavior of this unprecedented gusher. It has functioned as a humongous sandblaster of sorts, which will therefore make it difficult to even keep a cap on it for any extended period of time. When you drill through the earth’s crust and into the mantle at depths of 20,000 to 35000 feet, the Russians have consistently encountered pressures far exceeding those that exist in more shallow prospects. They also understand that such pressures demand a proportionate upgrade in technology and equipment (which did not happen with the Deepwater Horizon), if catastrophic blowouts are to be avoided.
The more serious issue here is that the surrounding seafloor is being profoundly undermined, hence the foundation of the wellhead is progressively weakening thereby creating new exit points for methane gas. Many seasoned observers have noted that there has been a piercing of the wellhead itself. This predicament will necessitate a unique and more thorough response, if the outflow is to be completely stopped. Or, if all the oil and gas is to be captured by a “containment and capture” solution.
Another major source of methane gas comes from frozen hydrate crystals which exist on the sea floor in vast quantities. Due to very cold temperatures and high pressure, they stay locked in place until they are awakened from their slumber by the very conditions that now predominate in the region around the wellhead. The gushing oil is at least 212 F at the wellhead (and quite possible higher in temperature [300 to 400 F] during a 24 hour period of outflow), which greatly affects the undersea dynamics, and especially the state of these hydrates. Also, it is quite noteworthy that we have no experience with the introduction of massive volumes of dispersants at the wellhead under those extraordinary conditions. What will be the ultimate effects on methane conversion and release throughout the region in terms of ramping up an already very dynamic and volatile situation on the seafloor? More significantly, what are the unforeseen consequences to the water (aquacide maybe?) and the fragile ecosystems that abound there?
There are other sources of methane, which occur under the seafloor in various types of “repositories”, that are being affected by movements of the earth, as well as by temperature fluctuations, that are being produced by changes deep in the core of the earth . These reservoirs are undoubtedly releasing methane gas, as are the seafloor surface beds of trapped frozen methane crystals. Almost all of the released methane gas from these sources will eventually rise to the surface of the Gulf, some of it accumulating as hovering gas concentrations which will then dissipate over time. They accumulate and disperse, come and go according to the scientific properties of methane gas behavior.
Methane does have a very deleterious effect on all aerobic marine life in that it depletes oxygen very rapidly in water. This is the biggest concern, and can have greater impact on life than the toxicity of both the oil and the dispersants combined, dangerous interactions and all. We state the obvious when we say that all aerobic organisms need oxygen, and that such life will die very quickly when oxygen concentrations drops below critical thresholds (How long would you live holding your breath under water?!). As the methane rises through the higher layers of the Gulf of Mexico aquatic strata where the water is warmer, this problem becomes aggravated due to the fact that warmer water simply holds less oxygen than cold water.
This discussion is not to diminish in any way the extremely harmful toxicities associated with the myriad of chemicals and contaminants found in the dispersants (e.g. COREXIT) and petroleum derivatives. Clearly, the Gulf of Mexico has been relentlessly turned into a petrochemical cesspool of “ginormous” proportions by this and other simultaneous gushers and leaks, which will take decades to remediate in any meaningful way.
Perhaps the most significant factor on top of the Gulf, however, is the weather. Low pressure weather systems, hot and humid conditions, and stagnant air conditions characterized by little wind can exacerbate the effects of methane gas accumulations around the coastlines, as well as many miles inland. The coming tropical storms and depressions, as well as the hurricanes, will provide vectors of dissemination for the aforementioned chemicals and contaminants to rain down on the many coastal communities, and beyond. In this regard, the entire state of Florida is particularly vulnerable due to obvious reasons.
The upshot of this story demonstrates the need to get to know your ambient air, and rainwater. This recommendation is vitally important! There are specific ways that this can be accomplished which will be covered in a future essay. In the meantime, it is wise to get to know your environment in the most intimate way, so that you may respond quickly and decisively to any situation that might arise, especially regarding high methane concentrations should they migrate over coastal communities.
Of course, there is also the matter of a voluminous, subterranean, methane gas bubble formation in this very same region that is seeking a way to vent the inevitable buildup of pressure as it grows in size. Much conjecture has centered around the possibility of other bubbles in the making as well. What we have here is internet-generated speculation which can be diagnostically proven with state of art EM (Electromagnetic) technology. We would hope that the US Coast Guard, working in concert with BP, has already performed these necessary diagnostic procedures. The status of this situation is being looked into by various competent parties both in and outside the industry, as the ramifications are as far-reaching as they are profound.
What follows are a number of links that can be considered as one follows the development of the very dynamic and critical evolution of methane hydrate conversion, methane gas emission and methane bubble formation throughout the Gulf of Mexico:
MORE INFORMATIONAL REPORTS ON THE METHANE CONUNDRUM:
Pulling the Clathrate Trigger « surf.bird.scribble.
AGU On Line Book Catalog: Methane Hydrates in Quaternary Climate Change: The Clathrate Gun Hypothesis
MSM STATUS REPORTS ON METHANE GAS IN THE GULF OF MEXICO:
The Associated Press: Gulf oil full of methane, adding new concerns
The Associated Press: Vast amounts of methane in Gulf spill pose threat
The Gulf of Mexico threatened by methane gas | Before It’s News
Methane in Gulf astonishingly high: U.S. scientist | Reuters
Methane’s hidden impact in Gulf oil spill
Perhaps the greatest impact on the global environment lies in the contribution that massive amounts of methane release will make to the greenhouse gas (GHG) burden already plaguing the planet. Given the convergence of many unprecedented environmental changes on the lands and in the waters, as well as dramatic alterations to the atmospheric mix, a scenario is evolving that demands serious attention to manmade precipitation of methane into the atmosphere. The very nature and processes involved within the hydrocarbon fuel paradigm are an excellent place to start. As the central organizing platform for the entire civilization, we, as a race, are now compelled to reconsider all that we have taken for granted about this highly consequential energy source.
After many decades of drilling holes into the earth’s crust and mantle, and especially deep into the ocean floor, there has been an awesome degree of fracturing and fissuring taking place. None of this occurs without extraordinary unintended consequence and collateral damage to the integrity of geological formations and strata which are created throughout the cycles of planetary evolution. Therefore, in addition to the naturally occurring methane seeps which populate the ocean floor around the world, humankind has added significantly to methane release through it myriad greenhouse gas-generating activities. The outworking of the hydrocarbon fuel paradigm in the form of oil and gas exploration, drilling, extraction, transport, refining and utilization is the most significant of these activities.
The many revelations, regarding the status of the seafloor around the Deepwater Horizon gushing well, clearly portray a picture that ought to give every resident of Planet Earth reason to pause. This was no “accident”, and certainly was designed to bring attention to the practices of the most destructive industry on the planet, bar none. When seen through the lens of GHG emissions alone, it is quite obvious that the hydrocarbon fuel paradigm (methane being the quintessential hydrocarbon) throughout its production, dissemination and utilization phases IS the 800 pound gorilla waiting to be noticed. Whether, or when, it pounces is by far the greatest systemic, environmental problem that the world will face until the end of this age.
On a positive note, it is very good to maintain the awareness that our collective consciousness has considerable influence on all that happens in the Gulf. The elements are quite responsive to our collective thoughts and ideas, feelings and emotions, intentions and motivations. We can, and do, assist in co-creating the future of the Gulf of Mexico with each thought and feeling, so why not become a part of the solution.
Gas (and air), being more subtle and refined than the other elements, are also very impressionable and therefore more easily influenced by the aggregate sentiments of humanity. Positive thought, hopeful feeling and pure intention will produce favorable outcomes the more deeply they are felt and sustained over time. There has never been a more important time to resolve ourselves – each and every one of us – to contribute to the highest possible good for the Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Tom Termotto, BCIM, DCAE
Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Conference (International Citizens’ Initiative)