Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Five Charts That Show We Are on the Brink of an Unthinkable Financial Crisis- John_Mauldin
2.Bitcoin Parabolic Mania - Zeal_LLC
3.Bitcoin Doesn’t Exist – 2 - Raul_I_Meijer
4.Best Time / Month of Year to BUY a USED Car is DECEMBER, UK Analysis - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Labour Sheffield City Council Election Panic Could Prompt Suspension of Tree Felling's Private Security - N_Walayat
6.War on Gold Intensifies: It Betrays the Elitists’ Panic and Augurs Their Coming Defeat Part2 - Stewart_Dougherty
7.How High Will Gold Go? - Harry_Dent
8.Bitcoin Doesn’t Exist – Forks and Mad Max - Raul_I_Meijer
9.UK Stagflation Risk As Inflation Hits 3.1% and House Prices Fall - GoldCore
10.New EU Rules For Cross-Border Cash, Gold Bullion Movements - GoldCore
Last 7 days
Bond Market Bear Creating Gold Bull Market - 19th Jan 18
Gold Stocks GDX $25 Breakout on Earnings - 19th Jan 18
SPX is Higher But No Breakout - 19th Jan 18
Game Changer for Bitcoin - 19th Jan 18
Upside Risk for Gold in 2018 - 19th Jan 18
Money Minute - A 60-second snapshot of the UK Economy - 19th Jan 18
Discovery Sport Real MPG Fuel Economy Vs Land Rover 53.3 MPG Sales Pitch - 19th Jan 18
For Americans Buying Gold and Silver: Still a Big U.S. Pricing Advantage - 19th Jan 18
5 Maps And Charts That Predict Geopolitical Trends In 2018 - 19th Jan 18
North Korean Quagmire: Part 2. Bombing, Nuclear Threats, and Resolution - 19th Jan 18
Complete Guide On Forex Trading Market - 19th Jan 18
Bitcoin Crash Sees Flight To Physical Gold Coins and Bars - 18th Jan 18
The Interest Rates Are What Matter In This Market - 18th Jan 18
Crude Oil Sweat, Blood and Tears - 18th Jan 18
Land Rover Discovery Sport - Week 3 HSE Black Test Review - 18th Jan 18
The North Korea Quagmire: Part 1, A Contest of Colonialism and Communism - 18th Jan 18
Understand Currency Trade and Make Plenty of Money - 18th Jan 18
Bitcoin Price Crash Below $10,000. What's Next? We have answers… - 18th Jan 18
How to Trade Gold During Second Half of January, Daily Cycle Prediction - 18th Jan 18
More U.S. States Are Knocking Down Gold & Silver Barriers - 18th Jan 18
5 Economic Predictions for 2018 - 18th Jan 18
Land Rover Discovery Sport - What You Need to Know Before Buying - Owning Week 2 - 17th Jan 18
Bitcoin and Stock Prices, Both Symptoms of Speculative Extremes! - 17th Jan 18
So That’s What Stock Market Volatility Looks Like - 17th Jan 18
Tips On Choosing the Right Forex Dealer - 17th Jan 18
Crude Oil is Starting 2018 Strong but there's Undeniable Risk to the Downside - 16th Jan 18
SPX, NDX, INDU and RUT Stock Indices all at Resistance Levels - 16th Jan 18
Silver Prices To Surge – JP Morgan Has Acquired A “Massive Quantity of Physical Silver” - 16th Jan 18
Carillion Bankruptcy and the PFI Sector Spiraling Costs Crisis, Amey, G4S, Balfour Beatty, Serco.... - 16th Jan 18
Artificial Intelligence - Extermination of Humanity - 16th Jan 18
Carillion Goes Bust, as Government Refuses to Bailout PFI Contractors Debt and Pensions Liabilities - 15th Jan 18
What Really Happens in Iran?  - 15th Jan 18
Stock Market Near an Intermediate Top? - 15th Jan 18
The Key Economic Indicator You Should Watch in 2018 - 15th Jan 18
London Property Market Crash Looms As Prices Drop To 2 1/2 Year Low - 15th Jan 18
Some Fascinating Stock Market Fibonacci Relationships... - 15th Jan 18
How to Know If This Stock Market Rally Will Continue for Two More Months? - 14th Jan 18
Everything SMIGGLE from Pencil Cases to Water Bottles, Pens and Springs! - 14th Jan 18
Land Rover Discovery Sport Very Bad MPG Fuel Economy! Real Owner's Review - 14th Jan 18
Gold Miners’ Status Updated - 13th Jan 18
Gold And Silver – Review of Annual, Qrtly, Monthly, Weekly Charts. Reality v Sentiment - 13th Jan 18
Gold GLD ETF Update.. Bear Market Reversal Watch - 13th Jan 18
Stock Market Leadership In 2018 To Come From Oil & Gas - 13th Jan 18
Stock Market Primed for a Reversal - 13th Jan 18
Live Trading Webinar: Discover 3 High-Confidence Trade Set-Ups - 13th Jan 18
Optimum Entry Point for Gold and Silver Stocks - 12th Jan 18
Stock Selloffs Great for Gold - 12th Jan 18
These 3 Facts Show Gold Is Set to Surge in 2018 - 12th Jan 18
How China is Locking Up Critical Resources in the US’s Own Backyard - 12th Jan 18
Stock futures are struggling. May reverse Today - 12th Jan 18
Three Surprising Places You See Cryptocurrency - 12th Jan 18
Semi Seconductor Stocks Canary Still Chirping, But He’s Gonna Croak in 2018 - 12th Jan 18
Land Rover Discovery Sport Panoramic Sunroof Questions Answered - 12th Jan 18
Information About Trading With Alpari And Its Advantages - 12th Jan 18

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

6 Critical Money Making Rules

BP Gulf Oil Gusher: Methane, Climate & Dead Zones

Politics / Environmental Issues Jul 11, 2010 - 12:53 PM GMT

By: DK_Matai

Politics

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleDK Matai writes: Gas and Methane Levels At Record

As much as one million times the normal level of methane is showing up near the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher, enough potentially to create dead zones in the water. "These are higher levels than we have ever seen at any other location in the ocean itself," according to sources cited by Reuters. The "flow team" of the US Geological Survey estimates that 2,900 cubic feet of natural gas, which primarily contains methane, is being released into the Gulf waters with every barrel of oil.


The constant flow of around 65,000 barrels of crude oil places the total daily amount of natural gas at over 188 million cubic feet. So far, over 13 billion cubic feet may have been released, making it one of the most vigorous methane eruptions in modern human history. The crude oil from the "Macondo Prospect" well contains around 40 percent methane, compared with about 5 percent found in typical oil deposits. To add to the challenge, methane and other toxic gases are trapped in deep water locations. Methane measurements can give a view to the extent of the oil gush in the Gulf of Mexico. Note our previous briefing: "Gulf Oil Gusher: Danger of Tsunamis From Methane?"

Dead Fish

Accelerating Effects

Like-for-like, methane is 23 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide or CO2 at trapping solar radiation, as recognised within the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. Methane is far more reflective and calculated over a period of 20 years, as opposed to 100 years, its radiative force is 72 times that of CO2 emissions. This makes vast releases of methane very powerful "positive feedback" loops that accelerate global warming.

Volatile Dead Zones

Dead zones are large regions of water that are very low in oxygen, a condition known as "hypoxia" and therefore they can't support life. At times in earth's history, the ocean currents have failed to stir the deepest waters. That is true today of the entire Black Sea, for instance. In those cases, whole ocean basins have stagnated. Conditions there eventually become anoxic -- without oxygen -- as the oxygen in the water disappears denying life. Above the water, the dead zones don't look any different from the surrounding waters. But along the bottom, there's practically no oxygen -- so fish don't swim in it, and bottom dwelling creatures die off.

Underwater toxic clouds of oil and methane gas have now been confirmed as originating from the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher. One of these clouds, encompassing an area the size of San Francisco and 600 feet thick, was found at 3,000 feet or more beneath the surface. Researchers studying the clouds have found concentrations of methane up to 10,000 times greater than normal and oxygen levels depleted by 30 to 40 percent below normal, according to various agencies. Given the rising number of numerous underwater clouds of methane of various sizes, what is the likelihood that they make their way to the surface either gradually or explosively?

As a result of the toxic methane clouds, oil and dispersants, organisms in the Gulf of Mexico are suffocating and it also explains why microbes that require oxygen to break down the oil are not cleaning the spill naturally. Worse is that long-lived "dead zones", ie zones without oxygen are likely, drifting through the Gulf of Mexico and perhaps over deep-water ecosystems where recovery time can be centuries, or not at all. Other larger clouds have been reported, and a large-scale coordinated effort is in motion.

Methane Driven Oceanic Eruption

It is worth considering the following scenario based on a volcano-like release of methane. Prof Gregory Ryskin, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University in the US, suggests that the culprit for the Permian extinction event may be an enormous cascading eruption of natural gas -- primarily methane --coming from the ocean depths. In a scientific article published in the September 2003 issue of Geology, Prof Ryskin suggested that huge combustible clouds produced by methane gas trapped in stagnant bodies of water and suddenly released could have killed off the majority of marine life and land animals and plants at the end of the Permian era -- long before dinosaurs lived and died.

According to Prof Ryskin, "Methane Driven Oceanic Eruption" is nothing new. Gigantic eruptions of methane gas dissolved in the deep ocean waters have occurred regularly throughout history, including ice ages and perhaps even the Biblical flood. "That amount of energy is absolutely staggering," according to Ryskin. "As soon as one accepts this mechanism, it becomes clear that if it happened once it can happen again." However, Prof Mark Maslin, director of the University College London (UCL) Environment Institute, points out that the conditions during the end of the Permian may have differed in comparison to the modern world, in terms of temperature, circulation and oxygen level within oceans.

Like A Volcano

Unlike oil, significant amount of methane gas dissolves in deep cold water. However, as that methane-water rises, the gas comes out of the solution and creates a methane mist, whose volume is seven times greater than pure water because of much reduced pressure. The resulting eruption is likely to spread quickly and release a part of the ocean basin's worth of natural gas in great clouds into the atmosphere. These could ignite because the amounts of flammable gas would be enormous. The subsequent fires and explosions would be catastrophic. A similar process is responsible for the most violent, explosive volcanic eruptions such as the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE or Mount St Helens in 1980. Those eruptions were driven by the escape of gases -- primarily water vapour -- dissolved in the liquid magma. However, in the underwater case the gas would be methane dissolved in liquid sea water with a similar result. A detailed description is available in Prof Ryskin's paper -- "Methane-driven oceanic eruptions and mass extinctions" -- with multiple citations of the paper by well known peers across the world.

Climate Domino Effects

Scientists have been discussing a number of scenarios of methane escaping from the ocean floor for some time. The sudden release of large amounts of natural gas -- primarily methane -- could be a cause of past, present and future climate chaos. It is believed that the release of trapped methane is a main factor in the global warming of 6°C that happened during the end-Permian extinction. "Methane Driven Oceanic Eruption" also predicts this will greatly affect available oxygen content of the atmosphere. As temperature rises, the permafrost is likely to melt. The methane released from beneath the permafrost could increase temperatures further, melting the permafrost faster, releasing even more methane, and so on. It is feared that such a scenario would accelerate Global Warming to the point where nothing humankind could do would reverse the problem. Note our previous briefing: "Butterfly Effect, Oi Gusher & Edge of Chaos: World Wide Summit?" However on the positive side, Prof Maslin in London points out that our estimates of the amount of methane locked up in gas hydrates on the planet have dropped over the last 3 decades as we learn more. A summary of our current knowledge can be found in "Gas Hydrates: Past and Future Geohazard?" by Maslin et al published in 2010.

Difference Between Methane and Gas Hydrates

Methane Clathrate -- also known as Methane Hydrates or Gas Hydrates -- is a form of naturally occurring water ice that contains a large amount of methane within its crystal structure. Methane Hydrates -- "the ice that burns" -- are one of the alternative sources of hydrocarbon fuels -- and one with reserves estimated to be larger than those of oil, gas and coal combined. Methane hydrates were first discovered in the 1970s. Their unique characteristic is that they are seemingly frozen and yet flammable. Over the last few years, China and India have reported massive finds of frozen methane gas off their coasts, which they hoped would satisfy their energy needs.

Environmentalists have expressed their concern that tapping methane hydrates could have adverse effects on the world climate from escaping methane that comes from the ocean floor. They believe that this methane could heat up the world's climate to a far greater extent than coal, oil and natural gas do today. However, this number is constantly being revised downwards and Prof David Archer et al at the Department of The Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, suggested in 2009 that methane release from gas hydrates could add a maximum of another 0.5°C to global warming by 2100.

Global Warming & The Gun Hypothesis

Although not related to Prof Ryskin's "Methane Driven Oceanic Eruption", the clathrate gun hypothesis works on the basis that rises in sea temperatures can trigger the sudden release of methane from methane clathrate compounds buried in seabeds and permafrost. The methane itself is a powerful greenhouse gas and this leads to further temperature rises and methane clathrate destabilisation -- in effect initiating a runaway process as irreversible, once started, as the firing of a gun. There is stronger evidence that runaway methane clathrate breakdown may have caused drastic alteration of the ocean environment and the atmosphere of earth on a number of occasions in the past. The seminal paper in this regard is the "Methane Hydrates in Quaternary Climate Change: The Clathrate Gun Hypothesis" by Prof James Kennett et al, at the Department of Geological Sciences and Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, published in 2003. Prof Maslin points out that subsequent scientific research has shown that though this was a very nice theory at the time, recent evidence suggests that the expansion and contraction of both tropical and high latitude wetlands control the long term evolution of methane in the atmosphere.

Oceanic Methane's Significance

What caused the worst mass extinction in earth's history 251 million years ago? An asteroid or comet colliding with earth? A greenhouse effect? Volcanic eruptions in Siberia? Or an entirely different culprit? There is strong evidence that a runaway methane driven oceanic eruption may have caused drastic alteration of the ocean environment and the atmosphere of earth on a number of occasions in the past, over timescales of tens of thousands of years; most notably in connection with the Permian extinction event. Though these extremely low probablity high impact events from the past seem like science fiction, they do provide evidence of how the Earth System can operate. Prof Maslin in London suggests that methane release from gas hydrates is an additional effect. This could potentially be another geohazard, alongside natural gas or methane release in large quantities. We need to study methane gas emissions and monitor methane hydrates to ensure we understand the explosive potential of these reserves and the likelihood of tsunami generation, in combination, or on their own.

Conclusion

It is important to recognise the role that methane has played throughout history in causing massive turbulence within the Earth System. At this stage of the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe, it is important to pay close attention to the role that methane is playing in creating dead zones and potential sources for volatile eruption that could affect not just sea-based, but also land- and air-based life. Although a global-scale methane driven oceanic eruption is highly unlikely at present, there may be stagnant, oxygen-poor basins in the ocean where methane might accumulate to dangerous levels. Even a small explosion of that methane could cause a catastrophe. Imagine what would happen if such an event occurred. Tsunamis could be generated in continuous waves. Methane and water clouds would auto-ignite and the massive fires could cause widespread destruction.

Consequences could be global. "I have little doubt there will be another methane-driven eruption -- though not on the same scale as 251 million years ago -- unless humans intervene," says Prof Ryskin. Even if there is only a small probability that such eruptions could occur, we should start looking for areas of the ocean where this might be most likely, beginning with the underwater gas clouds and dead zones now being spawned by the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher. Could the methane also be mined using techniques developed within hydro-pondages? Maybe we could tap the methane as an energy source and burn it to produce electricity before it gets into the atmosphere. What would be your suggestions for diffusing those very large underwater methane clouds especially if, on their way to the surface, they could erupt explosively?

By DK Matai

www.mi2g.net

Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance (ATCA) & The Philanthropia

We welcome your participation in this Socratic dialogue. Please access by clicking here.

ATCA: The Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to resolve complex global challenges through collective Socratic dialogue and joint executive action to build a wisdom based global economy. Adhering to the doctrine of non-violence, ATCA addresses asymmetric threats and social opportunities arising from climate chaos and the environment; radical poverty and microfinance; geo-politics and energy; organised crime & extremism; advanced technologies -- bio, info, nano, robo & AI; demographic skews and resource shortages; pandemics; financial systems and systemic risk; as well as transhumanism and ethics. Present membership of ATCA is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished members from over 120 countries: including 1,000 Parliamentarians; 1,500 Chairmen and CEOs of corporations; 1,000 Heads of NGOs; 750 Directors at Academic Centres of Excellence; 500 Inventors and Original thinkers; as well as 250 Editors-in-Chief of major media.

The Philanthropia, founded in 2005, brings together over 1,000 leading individual and private philanthropists, family offices, foundations, private banks, non-governmental organisations and specialist advisors to address complex global challenges such as countering climate chaos, reducing radical poverty and developing global leadership for the younger generation through the appliance of science and technology, leveraging acumen and finance, as well as encouraging collaboration with a strong commitment to ethics. Philanthropia emphasises multi-faith spiritual values: introspection, healthy living and ecology. Philanthropia Targets: Countering climate chaos and carbon neutrality; Eliminating radical poverty -- through micro-credit schemes, empowerment of women and more responsible capitalism; Leadership for the Younger Generation; and Corporate and social responsibility.

© 2010 Copyright DK Matai - All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2018 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

6 Critical Money Making Rules