09 May 2010

Methane Clathrates Clog Deep Horizon Oil Recovery Effort

Methane clathrate, also called methane hydrate, methane ice or "fire ice" is a solid clathrate compound (more specifically, a clathrate hydrate) in which a large amount of methane is trapped within a crystal structure of water, forming a solid similar to ice.[1] Originally thought to occur only in the outer regions of the Solar System where temperatures are low and water ice is common, significant deposits of methane clathrate have been found under sediments on the ocean floors of Earth.[2] _Wikipedia

Oil recovery efforts at the Deepwater Horizon spill site have been foiled by the accumulation of frozen methane clathrates -- covering and clogging the containment dome that had been lowered over the leak. Apparently as the leaking gas hit the cold 4 degree Celsius water on the sea floor, it formed into a frozen combination of methane and water -- methane hydrate, or clathrate. Unless BP and Coast Guard personnel can find a way around this problem, the containment dome approach may fail completely.
It could be at least a day before BP can make another attempt at putting a lid on a well spewing thousands of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, as a big containment box meant to siphon the oil away sat idle and encased in ice crystals.

The company's first attempt to divert the oil was foiled, its mission now in serious doubt. BP said it could be Monday or later before a decision is made whether to make another attempt to capture the oil and funnel it to a tanker at the surface. The box was moved hundreds of feet away while officials tried to figure out their next move. _NOLA
Meanwhile,containment efforts on the surface continue. Officials scramble to locate more containment booms, and more dispersants are being applied to the surface spill as necessary. It is anticipated that over the next 48 hours the spill will be pushed toward the coast West of the river, with a smaller area of light slick pushed toward Breton Sound on the East.

Full news coverage of oil spill

Methane clathrates are believed to constitute a reserve of natural gas equivalent to between 2 and 10 times all other known natural gas deposits worldwide. More on methane hydrates

As the Deepwater Horizon episode illustrates, working in the cold, dark, pressurised atmosphere of the deep sea floor is unlike any other work environment. Engineers and scientists are learning a great deal from this disaster -- which is often how important lessons are learned. Now it is vital that the important lessons be put to work in safely developing the mineral resources of the deep sea floor -- from oil to gas to methane clathrates to mineral nodules and so on.

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Blogger kurt9 said...

I think it would be funny if all new offshore drilling around the U.S. is banned, but the Japanese are successful in commercial development of hydrate reserves and we end up importing from them.

Of course this is unlikely to happen because of the recent development of shale gas, gives us another 60-100 years of natural gas reserves, if not more.

Sunday, 09 May, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...


The funny thing about the methane clathrate reserves: although they are estimated to be up to 10 times larger than all other natural gas deposits, geologists may be missing the point.

The frozen clathrates themselves are just a hint of what lies beneath, since the clathrates are the gas that seeped far enough upward to meet cooler seawater.

In other words, it's quite likely that vast fields of gaseous and liquid hydrocarbons lie beneath the sea in "unlikely" areas of sea bottom, due to seismic geological turnover, volcanic activity, etc. The only clue for some of these vast deposits might be the methane clathrates in the shallow sediments above the main formations.

Sunday, 09 May, 2010  
Blogger Nature Creek Farm said...

An open forum and project room are opened here: https://gw.innocentive.com/ar/challenge/overview/9383447 to submit ideas for solving this problem. Anyone with useful information and ideas should review and submit them.
Thank you.

Sunday, 09 May, 2010  
Blogger kurt9 said...

Your right, Al Fin,

Even the presentation you link to suggests abiogenic natural gas, like almost all of it.

I read Thomas Gold's book, "The Deep, Hot Biosphere", about 10 years ago and actually corresponded with him by email about 6 months before he died. Even though I think petroleum is of biological origin, it is very clear to me that most natural gas is not and that there is FAR, FAR more natural gas in the Earth than most people even suspect.

My correspondence with Gold was prompted by the discovery of Methane gas in Mars' atmosphere. All of the space people were certain this meant that there is life inside the planet. My interpretation of this discovery was that it was additional confirmation that Gold's theory about abiogenic natural gas were correct and I emailed him to congratulate him as well as to ask him several follow on questions with regards to the finding.

Sunday, 09 May, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Kurt: Yes. We just need to learn how to safely get at them.

NCF: It sounds like a worthy effort. Truly creative problem solvers are something of a breed apart.

Rather than training problem-solvers, modern schools are training automatons, zombies, conformist group-thinkers of the politically correct variety. That bodes ill for the many inevitable problems of the future.

It is a bit shocking to learn how little has changed since the early days of oil drilling. Disasters of this type seem to be necessary to get humans to the point where they have to solve problems -- to bring the problem-solvers out of the closet.

The lawyer-density of the US and the lawsuit mentality hanging over the head of every possible failed solution makes people reluctant to try something new.

There are quite a few simple solutions to the problem that would probably work in very short order -- but due to risk of lawsuit, there is no way they would be tried.

Sunday, 09 May, 2010  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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