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calendar   Tuesday - September 30, 2008

Now it’s methane that will kill us all

Methane melting out of seabeds: We’re All DOOMED

Arctic scientists discover new global warming threat as melting permafrost releases millions of tons of a gas 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide

Oh noes!!!

The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.

The Independent has been passed details of preliminary findings suggesting that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats....
Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Scientists aboard a research ship that has sailed the entire length of Russia’s northern coast have discovered intense concentrations of methane – sometimes at up to 100 times background levels – over several areas covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf.

In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through “methane chimneys” rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a “lid” to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.

They have warned that this is likely to be linked with the rapid warming that the region has experienced in recent years.

Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.

“The conventional thought has been that the permafrost ‘lid’ on the sub-sea sediments on the Siberian shelf should cap and hold the massive reservoirs of shallow methane deposits in place. The growing evidence for release of methane in this inaccessible region may suggest that the permafrost lid is starting to get perforated and thus leak methane… The permafrost now has small holes. We have found elevated levels of methane above the water surface and even more in the water just below. It is obvious that the source is the seabed.”

The Arctic region as a whole has seen a 4C rise in average temperatures over recent decades and a dramatic decline in the area of the Arctic Ocean covered by summer sea ice. Many scientists fear that the loss of sea ice could accelerate the warming trend because open ocean soaks up more heat from the sun than the reflective surface of an ice-covered sea.

Hey, wait a second. Methane? That stuff burns, right? It’s similar to natural gas? No, it IS natural gas! Then why not drill for the stuff? Sink a well, inject some steam, and pump it all out. Solve the methane percolation issue and provide a valuable fossil fuel at the same time!

Hey, way ahead of you there buddy! The Japanese have already mostly figured out how to do it. But, surprise!, the eco-whackos are against it.

Japan is celebrating a groundbreaking science experiment in the Arctic permafrost that may eventually reshape the country’s fragile economy and Tokyo’s relationships with the outside world.

For an unprecedented six straight days, a state-backed drilling company has managed to extract industrial quantities of natural gas from underground sources of methane hydrate - a form of gas-rich ice once thought to exist only on the moons of Saturn.

In fact, the seabeds around the Japanese coast turn out to conceal massive deposits of the elusive sorbet-like compound in their depths, and a country that has long assumed it had virtually no fossil fuels could now be sitting on energy reserves containing 100 years’ fuel. Critically for Japan, which imports 99.7 per cent of the oil, gas and coal needed to run its vast economy, the lumps of energy-filled ice offer the tantalising promise of a little energy independence.

Environmentalists, though, are horrified by the idea of releasing huge quantities of methane from under the seabeds. Although methane is a cleaner-burning fossil fuel than coal or oil, the as yet untapped methane hydrates represent “captured” greenhouse gasses that some believe should remain locked under the sea. The mining of methane ice could also wreak havoc on marine ecosystems.

And they aren’t alone. There is methane hydrate under the seafloor all over the world. Off all the coasts. The US has loads of it. Zillions of tons of the crap. Why? Because it’s naturally produced! It’s the half decayed remains of billions of years worth of sea critters. All we have to do is figure out how to get it up, either in a frozen state, or thaw it out and suck it up and bottle it. And that’s exactly what the oil companies are working on right now.

Anchorage, Alaska - Scientists from the U.S. Energy Department are looking for ways to tap a new and unusual source of natural gas underneath the frozen ground near Prudhoe Bay. 
Gas hydrates—methane gas trapped in ice—were recently drilled by oil giant BP near its Milne Point well.

Have you ever seen ice burn? It will, when the ice contains methane gas, and that simple fact has scientists from around the globe looking to Prudhoe Bay and a new test well drilled by BP.

“You would probably say it looked like snow,” said Scott Digert.  image

What to most may look like an especially hard-hitting snowball could be a source of energy for researchers at BP, including Digert, who is BP Alaska’s Milne Point Resource manager.

“It’s a gas molecule contained in an ice lattice, which provides quite a good storage for methane molecules inside a frozen zone,” said Digert. 

Methane gas trapped in ice. And it burns.  Scientists with the federal Energy Department paid $4.6 million to drill for the hot ice just below the surface of the Milne Point well, which is situated northwest of Prudhoe Bay. Methane will only stay in its solid or frozen state at extremely cold temperatures and under lots of pressure, both of which are abundant in Alaska’s frozen grounds.  Until recently, though, hydrates were seen as a drilling hazard.

“When you warm it up or you take the pressure off of it, it starts to thaw, basically. So you get free water and free gas, the methane, and so we try to control the release of that gas,” Digert said. 

Now, scientists from around the world are waiting for pieces of this strange ice to conduct their own tests and determine whether Alaska’s frozen grounds contain untapped, clean-burning energy. BP says it found two separate layers of gas containing ice at Milne Point, each about 25-feet thick.  Operators drilled it many times over to come up with about 400 feet of 3-inch diameter ice cores that will be sent via cryogenic packaging to labs around the world for further study. But if gas hydrates contain clean burning energy, why hasn’t any one done test drilling to find them on the North Slope before? Methane needs extremely cold temperatures and pressure to stay in its solid form. BP says it new this form of methane was under the tundra all along. On the surface, it is a flammable gas, and only recently have scientists determined how to safely bring the ice to surface without melting it first.

It’s no wonder the Greenies are going nuts about this. It’s an abundant natural fuel resource. But if it all leaks out we’re gonna die. And we can blame Global Warming if that happens. It may actually be necessary to DRILL HERE DRILL NOW to save the planet. As much and as fast as we can!! Which would make the oil companies international heroes. Which should make the Greenies heads explode.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 09/30/2008 at 03:51 PM   
Filed Under: • EnvironmentOil, Alternative Energy, and Gas Prices •  
Comments (6) Trackbacks(1)  Permalink •  
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