As if crude oil coating seabirds and marine life is not enough of a problem, or the oil’s benzene and hydrogen sulphide are not enough of a problem, or the toxic oil dispersant Corexit is not enough of a problem, now we must worry about methane.
The crude gushing from the well contains vast amounts of natural gas that could pose a serious threat to the Gulf of Mexico’s fragile ecosystem.
The oil emanating from the seafloor contains about 40% methane, compared with about 5% found in typical oil deposits, said John Kessler, a Texas A&M University oceanographer who is studying the impact of methane from the spill. That means huge quantities of methane have entered the Gulf…potentially suffocating marine life and creating “dead zones” where oxygen is so depleted that nothing lives.
“This is the most vigorous methane eruption in modern human history,” Kessler said.
Methane is a colorless, odorless and flammable substance that is a major component in the natural gas used to heat people’s homes. Petroleum engineers typically burn off excess gas attached to crude before the oil is shipped off to the refinery. That’s exactly what BP has done as it has captured more than 7.5 million gallons of crude from the breached well. A BP spokesman said the company was burning about 30 million cubic feet of natural gas daily from the source of the leak, adding up to about 450 million cubic feet since the containment effort started 15 days ago.
But that figure does not account for gas that eluded containment efforts and wound up in the water, leaving behind huge amounts of methane. Scientists are still trying to measure how much has escaped into the water and how it may damage the Gulf and it creatures.
The dangerous gas has played an important role throughout the disaster and response. A bubble of methane is believed to have burst up from the seafloor and ignited the rig explosion. Methane crystals also clogged a four-story containment box that engineers earlier tried to place on top of the breached well.
The small microbes that live in the sea have been feeding on the oil and natural gas in the water and are consuming larger quantities of oxygen, which they need to digest food. As they draw more oxygen from the water, it creates two problems. When oxygen levels drop low enough, the breakdown of oil grinds to a halt; and as it is depleted in the water, most life can’t be sustained.
In early June, a research team led by Samantha Joye of the Institute of Undersea Research and Technology at the University of Georgia investigated a 15-mile-long plume drifting southwest from the leak site. They said they found methane concentrations up to 10,000 times higher than normal, and oxygen levels depleted by 40% or more. The scientists found that some parts of the plume had oxygen concentrations just shy of the level that tips ocean waters into the category of “dead zone” — a region uninhabitable to fish, crabs, shrimp and other marine creatures.
To read the entire AP article, CLICK HERE. H/t beloved Fellow May!
P.S. Did you know that the presence of methane is proportional to the presence of uranium and thorium, both radioactive elements? A poster at GodlikeProductions wrote:
Something very dangerous lurks in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Keep in mind the reserve Deepwater was drilling happens to be the deepest offshore reserve to date. Also keep in mind how we learned oil is sourced from deep below the Earths crust. Further down then [sic] mankind has been able to study and observe.
Helium is a naturally occurring gas formed in oil reserves. So common that helium detectors have been used to discover oil reserves. Helium is an inert gas known to be a by-product from the radiological decay of uranium and thorium. Uranium and Thorium are known to be in great quantities at greater depths…. Oil reserves that do not produce large amounts of methane also lack uranium and thorium.
Read more about this HERE.
UPDATE: BusinessInsider has an article, June 18, “Oil Spill May Cause Methane Poisoning, Completely Wiping Out Life In Parts Of Gulf,” HERE.